With the Journal Entry Quota I refer to the response given by finders of BookCrossing books. It’s a fact that the books we release are found. Sometimes, they disappear only minutes later, and it rarely happens that a book remains at the release site for longer than a day – unless the release site happens to be in the middle of a forest or in an equally deserted spot.
But even though all those books are picked up, we’ll get a response for merely 10 to 20 percent of all releases. This number is a rough estimate, based on the long-standing experience of active BookCrossers. Since about a year, though, this rate is extremely regressive [german], following the upgrade of BookCrossing.com in June 2010. We’ll get back to this in a moment.
Therefore, we need to ask the following question: What happens with the books when they are found?
It’s certainly another fact that the books are thrown away only very rarely. It’s no use gainsaying this, as it might happen – depending on the release site, cleaning and care-taking staff might throw away everything that’s not supposed to be at a given place. With a little luck, such a find might make its way into the lost property office; but the staff there usually hasn’t the leeway to let BookCrossing books continue their journey.
So obviously, the books are taken by someone. Who wouldn’t love to find a book for free, after all? Let’s say then that the finder is interested, be it in the book itself, or be it in the idea presented by BookCrossing. Let’s suppose, too, that the book was found in a busy moment and makes its way straight to some bookshelf, drawer, bag or whatever, while the little happy moment is soon forgotten, overshadowed by other events. It stands to reason that like this, it could be weeks, months, even years until the find gets its due respect.
Of course, there are also those finders who immediately want to know what this is all about – people usually counting among those who HAVE heard that the interwebs aren’t always evil. So they read the included information and dare visit the website BookCrossing.com. Before BookCrossing became multilingual in June 2010, a not uncommon reaction from the odd German finder then was something like, “eew, that’s all in English“, and immediately the chance of a journal entry is lost. This argument is obsolete, since BookCrossing nowadays also speaks German (albeit sometimes a bit sketchily). Still, this doesn’t result in more journal entries, as one would expect, but on the contrary, there’s even less response than ever before. My conclusion, therefore, is that the language excuse indeed only has been an excuse.
Having said that, on the old German support website, there used to be a way to make a journal entry easily, anonymously and completely in German. This has been widely accepted in the German-speaking world, as numerous entries prove (no matter that there aren’t any statistics listing actual numbers – how ever did I miss collecting that data?). It became particularly evident when, after the upgrade of BookCrossing.com, this feature wasn’t any longer available. Reasons for that being, for one, the new language skills of the mother site, seemingly making the function dispensable, while the necessary software changes would increase its error-proneness considerably. The palpable effect was a heavy decrease of journal entries [german] experienced by many active BookCrossers.
Of course, there are also other reasons for a found book not getting a journal entry. Be it the BCID being written down faultily, so the book can’t be found any longer in the BookCrossing database; be it the loss of interest in the book by the finder himself, who then passes it on to somebody else (which could repeat itself endlessly); be it that the finder rather wants to help the book travelling and simply brings it to another place, without reading and journalling it; be it the finder not having any internet access; or having forgotten to note the BCID for an entry and already having released the book again; or be it that the finder does want to make a journal entry, but fails at the procedure at BookCrossing.com.
BookCrossing.com has an interest to include every finder in its database as a member, for the simple reason that this way the finder can easily follow the book on its further journey. That doesn’t mean that every finder is willing to join yet another community, particularly not if it’s a one-off from the finder’s viewpoint. After all, how often do you find a BookCrossing book? For this reason it’s very useful to have the opportunity to make an anonymous journal entry. But particularly this feature requires quite an effort since the upgrade.
So now we have a finder, who doesn’t want to become a BookCrosser and join the community, but who wants to make a journal entry all the same. The first problem could still be the language problem: depending on the system settings of the finder, the site might still not load in German. This is quite understandable, since the community and website are international and therefore German is not the default language. Quite incomprehensible, though, is the fact that switching the language is much more complicated for an anonymous finder. Members have a huge button at their disposal, while the anonymous finder needs to find a small and well-hidden link far down on the page.
Having overcome this difficulty, the anonymous finder faces the next obstacle right away: he has to fill in the mandatory fields for country, region and city, meaning rummaging trough long lists and probably discovering that the city of their find is missing. If he doesn’t give up now, he hits “add a city” – and is confronted with the sign-in-window, as cities can only be added by members. And since an anonymous finder wouldn’t know what we members define as a city and what not, the consequence is that one never gets journal entries for book findings in cities not on the list. (Please bear in mind that this is not the fault of the finder! But books might travel to several places until a finder is willing to make an entry. And he might very well have found the book in a city not on the list.)
If the anonymous finder is still not discouraged at this point, he now is not only asked to rate the book, but also to write a review. (The German term, “recension”, is a little bit more intimidating than “review”, since it suggests writing something professional. [Update Nov 2011: the german term has be replaced by a better translation already.]) Granted, for us BookCrossers, it’s interesting not only to hear where and when a travelling book was found, but also how the finder did like it. But some anonymous finders take this too seriously and rather quit at this point, not wanting to bother writing a literal (in both senses of the word) book-review instead of simply leaving a short impression. He can’t know that this is all we want! The status of the book, another option for the finder’s journal entry, on the other hand is really only interesting for the active BookCrosser and of no avail for the finder.
It is clear that an anonymous finder really has to clear a hurdle, even if he just wants to report the finding of the book. And some of the anonymous finders indeed manage to overcome that hurdle and actually make their journal entry. I highly suspect, though, that most of those having reached that point are caught by the idea and finally register as BookCrossers. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that they become active BookCrossers. (A subject I’m going to cover another time.)
It was a goal of the old support website to help an interested BookCrosser with incomplete or no command of English to pursue this hobby. Ultimately, it’s always the same steps: register a book, release a book, find and journal a book.
Since BookCrossing has now become truly multilingual, the logical conclusion was to change the focus of the new support website. Furthermore, the old method of making an anonymous journal entry with the support site wasn’t possible any longer for technical reasons. It quickly became apparent that the new solution for anonymously journalling a book via the new support website wasn’t sufficient, too: after the typed-in BCID had been checked, the site redirected the finder to bookcrossing.com to make his entry there. Unfortunately this wasn’t immediately apparent, since we registered BookCrossers usually log in and don’t make anonymous entries…
On August 15th, 2011, I added a new option to the book journalling procedure for exactly this reason: Now the finder has also the opportunity to make simply an entry directly on the support website.
When using this option, he also can add a few words about the place of his find, his book, the weather or whatever. This info is mailed to me, and subsequently posted by myself in form of an anonymous entry. An anonymous entry made in this way can be recognised by the addition of a link to the support website. This is a service by the support website, while I’m not giving up hope that one day it will be easy and simple for everyone to make an anonymous journal entry on BookCrossing.com.
This new function is well accepted by the finders, as numbers prove: in the first month, 241 entries have been made, 220 via ballycumber.de, 18 via bookcrossers.at, 2 via bookcrossers.ch and even one via bookcrossers.be. Besides there are an unknown number of entries, be it anonymous or not, that have been made directly at BookCrossing.com.
With this in mind – may our journal entry quota rise again!
15.08.2011: Start of the simplified procedure for writing an anonymous journalentry.
15.09.2011: 241 of which 220 via .de, 18 via .at, 2 via .ch and 1 via .be
15.10.2011: 231 of which 212 via .de 12 via .at and 7 via .ch
15.11.2011: 220 of which 195 via .de, 19 via .at and 6 via .ch
15.12.2011: 138 of which 120 via .de, 17 via .at and 1 via ..be
15.01.2012: 132 of which 122 via .de, 9 via .at and 1 via .ch
15.02.2012: 134 of which 110 via .de, 15 via .at, 6 via .ch, 2 via .eu and 1 via 1.de
15.03.2012: 136 of which 119 via .de, 15 via .at, 1 via .ch und 1 via .be
15.04.2012: 169 of which 160 via .de, 6 via .at, 2 via .ch und 1 via .be
15.05.2012: 196 of which 187 via .de, 6 via .at und 3 via .ch
15.06.2012: 172 of which 166 via .de und 6 via .at
which is a total of 1769 anonymous journals entered by myself…
After about 14 months(!) and about 2376(!) journalentries which I have written for those lazy finders of the books, I started a new procedure in Nov 2012, where the (german & dutch) finder can choose for a little how-to before they make an anonymous journal entry… which seems quite functional. Nevertheless would a simple solution at BookCrossing.com be a better solution!