Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002 Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002

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Heather Pederson (front row, left), Bruce Pederson (back row, center) and Ron Hornbaker (back row, right), who are’s founders, gather in Sandpoint with their Kansas City crew.
‘Releasing’ books around the world’s local connection

Combine a love of literature with a desire to share good books; toss in the ability of the Internet to reach millions of people worldwide; then add the skills of three entrepreneurs and you end up with the hottest new website on the ’net –

Sandpoint residents Bruce and Heather Pederson, along with Ron Hornbaker, are co-owners of Humankind Systems, a software and Internet development company responsible for Bookcrossing. “I was feeling creative,” Hornbaker said, “and it just clicked.”

What “clicked” was a new way for readers to share their favorite books – by “littering” them around the world, then tracking released books on the Internet.

“We call it ‘register, read and release,’ ” explained Bruce. Log onto the website and register. Post a review, slap in a label to explain this is a Bookcrossing book, then release it – leave it somewhere public to be picked up.

“Hopefully, the person who picks it up will also log into the website and register, then release it again,” Bruce said.

The concept has appealed to 108,000 Bookcrossing members worldwide, and the website receives 23 million hits a month. Bookcrossing garnered the attention of National Public Radio, CNN, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Family Circle magazine, as well as hundreds of other media sources all over the world. The trio has also met with high-powered business executives, including the management team for Starbucks and the founder of The Republic of Tea. In addition, an independent television production company is courting them.

Official “Bookcrossing zones” – places where you can release books into the wild – are springing up everywhere, including right here in Sandpoint at Ivano’s Ristorante.

“Heather was explaining the site to me, and I was intrigued with the concept,” said Rich Ballard, one of the three owners of the popular restaurant. “It’s said that a room without books is like a body without a soul – and what better combination than a coffee house and books?”

Bruce and Heather live just out of town and work as “Internet moguls” who have midwifed a number of ideas to great success. Hornbaker, the program developer, makes his home in Sun Valley, while the Bookcrossing website is maintained by a crew in Kansas City. “They all like to come here for business meetings,” Heather said, laughing.

“The number one thing we hear from people about the site is that it’s an adventure,” Hornbaker said. “They say it’s like putting a message in a bottle. These books will have some amazing stories to tell in a few years.”

They have amazing stories to tell now. The most traveled book on the website is an Italian book, A Ogni Pie so-spinto ... diario intimo di un vero briccone (Constantly Pushed to Anger – Diaries of a True Rogue) by Michele Pernozzi. The most popular book on the website is Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, though John Grisham has three titles in the top 10.

“Henry Miller said, ‘The most cherished possession of a man are his books, and the better the man, the more easily he gives away his possessions.’ We encourage people to go ahead and register their books,” Hornbaker explained, “even if they’re not going to release them, but we hope they release them.”

There are bookcrossing members in close to 50 countries, from American Samoa to Zimbabwe. The top five members of all received their ranking by releasing over 1,000 books each. One member has “caught” 479 books in the wild, which explains a comment posted on the website – “Please, please, shut this site down! It’s taking up too much of my time!”

– Trish Gannon

Summer 2003

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