A New Literary Phenonmenon

AS HOME to Britain&#39s first public lending library Manchester is well placed to join the growing urban phenomenon known as “bookcrossing”.

This Saturday the city&#39s Urbis museum plans to place thousands of books – each bearing a sticker with a unique number registered on its official website – at shops, bars and bus stops, and in taxis and train stations.

Anyone lucky enough to find one – be it James Bond or James Joyce – can then read it, log on to the website to look at its previous journey, update it or leave reviews before releasing it for others to enjoy.

About 40 per cent of books get passed on though some disappear for years.

In California, one woman was disappointed when her offering disappeared until she received an e-mail from a reader who had found it in a Singapore cafe 18 months later. “Books have been set free in locations such as a tram stop in Melbourne to a Starbucks in Shanghai to a phone booth in Montreal,” the museum said.

Undeterred by the fact that a Morrisons supermarket in Manchester might not have quite the same ring, Oxfam and Urbis staff have donated hundreds of volumes for the event. People are being urged to look out for them and add to their number by “setting free” their own old favourites which have been gathering dust.

Scott Burnham, creative director of the pounds 30m museum which opened last year as a centrepiece of the city&#39s Cathedral Quarter, said: “The beauty of bookcrossing is that it&#39s organic – this project will evolve and take on a life of its own as books are passed on and on.

“Bookcrossing is about animating the city of Manchester with a unique collaboration between Urbis and an international project and giving everyone the opportunity to embark on a journey of discovery whether it&#39s finding a book in a unique location, discovering its story or tracing the people who have read it before you.”

Urbis, unveiled as part of the city&#39s regeneration after the IRA bomb attack in 1996, invites visitors to “travel” to different cities via a glass elevator. “The museum is about experiencing cities and this bookcrossing will add to the experience,” said a spokeswoman.

“If people want to take the books on holiday and leave them in Geneva or the Costa del Sol that is fine.”

© 2003 Newspaper Publishing PLC
The Independent (London) August 14, 2003, Thursday

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