The Routebear story – part one

The Routebear story - part one

17 Apr 2001

I’ve been asked for more about Routebear, my little travel buddy. Well, it’s a long story, so bear with me…

In 2001, an American called Ron Hornbaker thought up this crazy idea called BookCrossing, which is all about “releasing books into the wild”. The logo shows a free book, arms pumping as it runs off, usually on a yellow diamond warning sign – like deer or kangaroo crossing road signs. A book is registered on the site, given a unique ID, a label explaining the concept, and then set free on a park bench, at a café, wherever.

The idea is that someone finds the book, goes to the website, enters the ID and discovers the book’s history. It is then theirs to read, to keep, to pass on.

I joined in 2003 because I thought it was a cool idea, and at that time I was a bookseller and had a lot of books that I couldn’t sell and wanted to give away. I started releasing books, having a tonne of fun, and joining in the community discussion on the site forum, in those pre-Facebook days.

Turns out that BookCrossers are a bunch of well-read, generous, quirky people, and I enjoyed their online company. I started going to their city meetups – well, I organised the first Canberra ones – and when national conventions began happening, I went to those as well.

BookCrossing is what really got me travelling, to meet these sweet people around the world. I’ve had some memorable adventures, made some dear friends, and caught and released thousands of books.

The main picture shows a few books, my well-travelled tote bag, and Routebear, who doesn’t come into the story until 2006. More on him later.