Touted as "the world's library" the premise for bookcrossing is simple: Label, Share, Follow.
You label a book with a unique indentifier and sticker, leave it "in the wild" for someone else to find, and watch it's journey/travels as it moves around. Bookcrossing was launched in 2001 and is a lot of fun for a book nerd. According to the bookcrossing website, as of today, there are currently 904,699 BookCrossers and 6,753,877 books travelling throughout 132 countries.
I haven't participated in it much in the past couple of years, but still get weekly reports of books that have been released in the Hamilton area. Yes, you can sign up to receive auto alerts -- though I haven't had the pleasure of following an alert to a book.
Here's an example of an alert you might see (this one's from several months ago)
The following 1 book(s) were released in the last 24 hours:
Town House by Tish Cohen
- Starbucks on Locke Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada at 8/13/2010 11:22 AM
I have a few books on my shelves that I'd love to release and see where they end up. We'll see if I have time to get them released, and where - most of my previously "in the wild" releases never resurfaced. Sure, they might have been found and read by people, which is cool, but I never had the pleasure of knowing where they got picked up and who got them.
Of note, Bookcrossing is one of the few social networking sites where I haven't used my own name nor the same profile pic that I use virtually everywhere else.
On Bookcrossing, my profile name is ParnasusHome - I had recently read a class book called The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. The title attracted me, but there is no supernatural element in the book - rather, the title refers to the "ghosts of all great literature" that haunt libraries and bookstores. It was a fun book, and referred to Parnassus on Wheels (of which The Haunted Bookshop is a prequel to).
How interesting that, since these books by Morley are in the public domain, I can now easily print versions of them on the Espresso Book Machine at Titles Bookstore McMaster University - whereas the first time I encountered The Haunted Bookshop was by chance on a sale table at the back of a bookstore in Toronto - the version I'd picked up was a 2004 hardcover reprint of the classic.
Hmm, that gives me an idea. Perhaps I should print a special McMaster Innovation Press version of The Haunted Bookshop, label it and release it and see where it ends up. Ah, so many fun ideas, so little time.