Monday, December 05, 2005

Travelling books

Having just recovered from Birmingham I am now teaching in London for a week and musing on the fact that whoever set luggage allowances for airlines could not have been a reader. Even the books I have carted down here to keep me company in the evenings are challenging that weight limit. So why are airport editions always big trade paperback versions of the books? Don't travellers need versions printed on tissue paper if we are not to continue to suffer injury by checking in 20k then trying to walk upright onto the plane with another 20k of books stuffed into our handbag/ coatpockets/other hiding places I'm not giving away ?

Anyway, I have learned in the last 24 hours that there are in fact other ways to let books travel. I stumbled today on a site called Bookcrossing. Not in fact a site for people who like to put chicklit dust covers onto ferrari manuals but a site encouraging to deface - sorry lable- your book with a cataloge number and then to 'release it' for other people to stumble on and 'catch'. I'm really not sure about this one - my books are not in captivity to be released - they are loved and treasured. Plus they reckon that only 20-25% of releases are caught - so what happens to those other poor lonely books, left homeless in a cruel cold world?

A much better idea seem to me to be Book Aid International, which I found referred to in my free Observer provided on the BA flight to Heathrow: it is their Christmas charity this year. Book Aid works in 18 Sub Saharan African countries to provide books to communities with little other source of reading matter. They run literacy supprt groups and camel mobile libraries for example. The books are often educational - from stories about how children deal with floods to Internet or technical drawing manuals. They run a book club - for £5 per month you don't receive 4 books - but someone else does. Have a look.

I like the quote from their website:
"If education is the road out of poverty, books are the wheels needed for the journey" Richard Crabbe, Chairman, African Publishers Network, 1997-2002

Now talking about wheels and journeys, time to catch a bus to Piccadily to go and browse in Hatchards and Waterstones.....

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