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Book Swap – Story Networking

Books still carry an aura of mistic knowledge only accessible to whom dares to move beyond the cover and through the sea of pages with waves of sentences down to the discovery of words.
There is only little the outsider can understand from a distance, it remains a mystery.

The best way to share the reading experience is by swapping and passing on books. It is more than a gift if a read book is shared it is a way of sharing the experience of the story and getting to know what someone else already knows.

Image taken from the Guardian Book Swap Flickr Group Pool / Garrards_road_streatham_london

Over the last weekend the Guardian and the Observer started a book swap project to share exactly these experiences. Book readers are asked to set out books into the wild, leaving it for someone else to pick up and read. The guardian has set up a Flickr group to document the locations and the books contributed. As an identification the news paper gave a way stickers to mark the books, making them identifiable. It also carries some basic information and instructions to promote the project. If you missed the paper with the sticker that was part of the issue over the last weekend you can download the sticker HERE.

It is not a l scale project. The headline reads Guardian launches national Book Swap with 15,000-volume giveaway. they are making a good initial effort to push the experiment to the edge of self sustaining, hopefully. This is the tricky part, with social media and crowd sourced projects it is never clear how much is beard and what exactly is needed to hook the critical mass. The setting however, looks promising with Twitter tied in via the tag #guardianbookswap.

Image taken from the Guardian Book Swap Flickr Group Pool / Dog and Fox.

Using social media with the integration of Flickr and Flickr map to visualising location, let’s the project tap into a vast resource and existing networking channels. The sticker also carries a QR tag making directly linking the physical object to virtual content.

TheGuardian sets out a few basic rules accompanying the projects. Key especially in the London context is the security issue in point number 5.

1. You can leave as many books as you like, just make sure they are your own
2. Make sure your book is clean and in good condition
3. Don’t leave inappropriate material where it can be found by children
4. Avoid places your book could be damaged by the weather
5. Make sure it won’t be seen as a security risk
6. Don’t leave it in book shops or libraries
7. Don’t put yourself or the finder of the book at any risk

Roald Dahl's Biography, part of the Guardian Book Swap
Image taken from the Guardian Book Swap Flickr Group Pool / Roald Dahl’s Biography.

This project is interesting in a number of ways especially also in terms of the timing. There is currently a heather discussion ongoing with a strong focus on London mainly furled by the Evening Standard as to how literacy of the young generation can be improved. Apparently the Evening Standard has identified a alarming low literacy amongst young people in the UK, especially in London and is now spearheading an initiative to poor in money to improve literacy in general. The can be and. Already have been of conures accused of making a lot of publicity and marketing with these initiatives (There was an earlier one this year from the Evening Standard focusing on poverty) and probably this is the case. More interesting is the way it is done and what it means for literacy and reading in general. Is it worth setting up initiatives that actually work in parallel to the education system, placing the efforts to increase literacy in competition?

The Guardian initiative is not to be seen in this corporate efforts of a literacy discussion. It is set as a program celebrating the joy of reading and sharing the texts. And it ties in with the ongoing push towards location based sharing, socialising and networking. The project celebrates the book as a medium, an analogue medium, that can, and has over centuries already enabled this sort of networking. The key here is that the focus is on the experience of reading and the social aspect of reading. To archive this the spatial dimension of reading is here the medium and highlight the public space as a shared space beyond traffic. It can also be a public space of imagination, discussion and statements.