I am the worst packer when it comes to selecting books to take on a trip. As a professional travel writer, I read many, many articles about packing, I’ve interviewed luggage manufacturers to learn about their latest designs and get their tips; I’ve PUBLISHED many stories. I can get my wardrobe and accessories down to one carry-on with no problem.
It’s books that always trip me up. I know, a lot of people like their tablets, but I still like the way the physicality of books engage the senses. I like the weight and feel of them, the way they whisper to me when I turn a page; even the smell of fresh ink and glue wafting from a new book
So, what do I take to read for recreation? Do I take the book I’m currently reading? What if I finish it while on the road, or just want something else? Should I take a back-up book? If I’m gone for more than one week, should I take more than one back-up book? If I’m traveling on assignment, how many research books do I take? If I have more than one assignment per trip, which usually happens, the number of books can stack up quickly and easily fill another suitcase.
Cape Town Airport’s Flybrary Book Swap Center addresses some of these issues. The concept is as simple as any free exchange. Browse for a book you’d like to read; then return it, or swap another book.
What a great idea! Book browsing is one of my favorite things to do while waiting for a flight, especially in the post-9/11 era which tells travelers they should be at the airport two hours in advance of their flight. Major airports often have a satellite bookstore, but regional hubs usually have nothing other than newspaper stands with their meager selection of bestselling paperbacks.
Even if I can’t find anything I want to swap, I can still enjoy looking at the books other travelers have left and wonder who read them and what they thought about it. Why are there so many copies of some books? (Is anyone still reading the Da Vinci Code?) If I’m really lucky, I might find a post card or other ephemera left behind as a bookmark.
Here’s hoping the Flybrary idea catches on! What do you think?