After a long day of exploring, there is no better activity for the weary backpacker than curling up at the guesthouse or hostel with a good book. While many readers have made the transition to eReaders or tablets, the typical hostel lounge is still littered with various books and magazines left by past travellers. These books vary from old Lonely Planet guides to tattered paperback novels in the traveller’s native language. This phenomenon is known as “booktrading”, and has become very popular among backpackers all over the world.
The reason for leaving these books behind is a matter of both convenience and generosity. Because backpackers are typically making every effort to travel as light as possible, leaving behind an unwanted book can lighten the load. From a more virtuous standpoint, backpackers will also make a point to leave behind their books to share with their fellow travellers, knowing that they themselves have often picked up random books in the past. This type of collaborative consumption, even on a small scale, is notable for its sustainability. The collaborative consumption will grow bigger and become more interesting for backpackers due companies such as Airbnb and WithLocals. So not only books can be traded but now it is possible to sleep in the houses of the locals, you can instant take tours or join their daily activities. (See Slideshare for more info) Because books are passed around, they find considerably more use than they would sitting on a shelf, or worse yet, in a trash pile somewhere. Booktrading is also great for the simple fact that it saves money, which is always a priority for backpacking travellers.
Booktrading is an informal system, with rules that may change slightly for each guesthouse or hostel. Participants rarely interact with one another, and there are no penalties for taking a book and never giving it away. Nonetheless it is an organically growing trend among travellers, many of whom might not even think to give it a name. Next time you are staying in a guesthouse or hostel in some far off country, feel free to drop off a book, and maybe pick up something new.
More info about collaborative consumption and traveling is found at Slideshare.net.