Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Games and selfish pleasures
As I came to work this morning, I found a nice friendly email containing a blog post somebody had not been able to track back here. It linked to the "Read and release" post below, and concerned books and games. I have written and asked for the link to this post, I expect it will show up when the sun (?) reaches the other side of the planet.

This email did set me to thinking a little further on the bookcrossing game, and since the post was in the email, I will quote from it without the link:

But Torill's point for her posting was that in a comment within the bookcrossing website someone had registered 1500 unread books-which turned the whole idea into a game of competition rather than one of reading more and sharing. All this just makes me realize that no matter how far we come in innovative media, social awareness of the ecology and love for our fellowman, there always is what I have come to call the "radar-anti-radar-radar" theory. If you come up with a good idea, someone will find a way to personally benefit from even the most altruistic of intentions.

This is an assumption that giving books away through bookcrossing is an altruistic act. I would say that no, it isn't! When you leave or send away a book through something like it is not charity or love of fellow man. If that is the goal, buy good books to your local library, anonymously. It is in a way a chain letter without the threats. You pass something off to random people and expect to have them cooperate with your needs and desires. You expect them to satisfy your curiosity and build your self esteem through positive feedback to what many of the bookcrossing community think of as "random acts of kindness". Remember that what some people think of as kindness may by others be considered littering, for instance. This doesn't mean that participating is bad: it is fun, others think it is fun, and if the people who find the books don't want to participate they can either keep the book or throw it out, no harm done!

There is very little pressure for participation on the next finder/reader, something expressed in the low amount of books that are registered as "caught". Even if half of the books a bookcrosser leaves randomly are thrown out as litter, from what I can see less than 10% (and that is a generous guess) are registered as caught by random readers, leaving 40% of the books, a large chunk, residing on bookshelves or being passed around outside of the bookcrossing tracking system.

All games have their powerplayers though, and so with bookcrossing. The quote from the community section was probably from one of those. I do not know enough about the real powerplayers to be able to tell. However, all of USA has about 15000 books currently "in the wild", so if an American citizen has released 1500, he or she has released 10% of all bookcrossing books currently not caught/registered in the states. I would say that qualifies for powerplayer status. So this person likes the game more than the reading of books. That doesn't make it more or less selfish an act than what the less aggressive players do. It is just a more specialised way of playing, with a different kind of reward.

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