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Great reads

3 February 2003

In the midst of the latest gloomy corporate news about publishing, two interesting promotional initiatives give cause for hope about the future of the book.

Book Crossing is an intriguing website set up by the American Ron Hornbaker to encourage people to pass their books on after they've read them. The way it works is that, after reading a book, you register it with your journal comments on the website. You then get a unique number, label the book and release it for another reader to find. There's even a 'Go hunting' facility on the site, which enables readers worldwide to track down books released in their vicinity. It's all friendly, good-humoured, free and private. What a great way to promote books and to encourage people to pass them along!

In the UK the recent highly successful competition to find the Greatest Briton (it was Winston Churchill) has been adapted to fit books, with the Big Read. Launching with the first TV programme in March, the BBC will set up a competition to find the top 100 best-loved books, to be announced in alphabetical order in April. More promotion will follow, then the top 10 will be announced in November. After that they'll each have 60 minute TV programmes fronted by high-profile figures, before the public gets its chance to vote in December. If this is even remotely as successful as Great Britons, it will give books a tremendous amount of coverage and attention.