By Sangeetha Sekar and Siddharth Mohan Nair
Social networking sites have been used for a variety of good causes; the latest instance being the relief work carried out by scores of Twitter and Facebook users to help people stranded in the Chennai floods. In the recent past, these social networking sites have also been used to raise resources through "challenges" like the Ice Bucket Challenge, Rice Bucket Challenge, etc. They have also been used for fun discussions like #BreakUpIn5Words, #YourLoveIn5Words.
This time around, some person, of whom we have no clue yet, has started a wonderful "ACTIVITY" called the Book Exchange. It lets a bibliophile connect with others of his creed, gift a book to some person (perhaps even a complete stranger) and then get book(s) in return. The activity involves a person sharing a post, asking people to buy and send one book to a person and get 36 in return.
How it works
The activity is simple. For a moment let us keep the figures aside.
â€¢ The person, say X, who posts this is contacted by people, say A, B and C, who are interested in taking part in the activity.
â€¢ A, B and C are sent a message which contains the name, age, and address of a person to whom they are supposed to send a book. Also included in the message would be the interests of that person to whom the book is being sent, just to ensure that he gets books that he likes reading.
â€¢ Next, A, B and C are asked to share the original post of X so that the chain isn't broken. X's address and interests are asked to be shared by A, B and C to all those who contact them, say M, N and O, wanting to join the activity. They are supposed to send books to X.
â€¢ M, N and O are part of the activity now. To those who contact them, they share the addresses and interests of A, B and C.
â€¢ Thus every person in the activity buys and sends only one book but, quite likely, gets more in return.
But what is to be kept in mind is that there is no guarantee of minimum or maximum number of books that one may get in return. Plainly, it is based on luck! Yet, the idea is brilliant. Kudos to that unknown person whose brainchild this is.
On reading about this incredible activity chain of buying or sharing books, one cannot help but compare this to the other book-sharing platforms and networks. Voracious bibliophiles do follow bloggers who write book reviews and websites like goodreads, which suggest to you the next good book based on your interest. There are other book-sharing platforms like bookmooch.com where people can join the network for free and share books they no longer need in exchange for books they may like to read. A similar desi version is an application called Clapshare, started by a couple of IITans from Bombay. This application offers its members a book-sharing platform, wherein a book-tracking feature is also included. Their first delivery is free after which they charge Rs 25 for every delivery, which is reasonable in exchange for a book. But they are currently operating only in Mumbai.
Ms Apoorva Mandhani, a law student from Pune, who is really excited about this online book exchange activity, has already done her part. She has sent a book to a person who is a complete stranger to her. She has sent 'A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption' authored by Ms Laura Hillenbrand. Though she hasnâ€™t read the book herself, she said that she did some research going through book reviews to select the best book possible. To her, the whole idea of selecting a book for a stranger was exciting, and she is hopeful that the person likes the book.
"I also sent a small hand-written note along with the book. It reminded me of the days we used to have pen pals. Well, the feeling is mutual and we hope everyone in the chain finds a pen pal from the most unassuming of places," said Apoorva.
However, the activity isn't completely free from criticism. Nikhil George, an engineering student from Thiruvananthapuram is of the opinion that this is a "scam." He compares this to a pyramid scheme and opines that this is impractical and is akin to cheating people. "Thirteen levels deep, youâ€™ve already surpassed the entire human population on earth. But usually such pyramid schemes fizzle out long before hitting such numbers. One reason being is that at some point, your friend circle is going to overlap and get saturated. The second reason being that your scheme will run out of people who are interested in participating," he says in his blogpost.
But not all think in the manner Nikhil does. Many book lovers simply turn around and say, "We love books more than anything. We do not see this as a scam or an act of cheating, it is just that it involves a bit of luck. Those who buy lotteries do not always, or hardly, get the prize."
The activity, apart from giving and getting books, involves thrill, a thrill in sending books to complete strangers like what the Apoorvas enjoy, a thrill also in getting books as gifts from strangers or friends. It also helps in making new friends. Completely worth a try!
(A version of this was first published on the 'Too long for tweets. Too short for a book' blog on December 13 and has been reproduced here with permission.)