Yes, those three words always grab my attention too. Books for Free is an initiative set up by Healthy Planet which redistributes unwanted books which would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Centres have been popping up all over the UK since it was launched in 2010 and it has been a big success. It is primarily an environmental cause aimed at promoting recycling but also plays an important role in bringing communities together and encouraging more people to read and share books.
I visited one of these centres in Holborn in central London recently. A lot of the stuff there will probably struggle to find a loving home even without a price tag (Windows 95 manuals anyone?) but I was pleasantly surprised by the overall range and quality of books. Visitors can take out up to three books at a time. Some of the books have been collected from second-hand dealers or other businesses who can’t get rid of them while others are donated by individuals thus ensuring that the project is self-sustaining.
During my visit, I picked up a hardback copy of ‘The Uninvited Guests’ by Sadie Jones which is in very good condition and also ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier. I made a small donation equivalent to what I would expect to pay in a charity shop – even though Books for Free really does mean books for free, it still felt weird not being obliged to give anything in return. Next time, I will bring a few books of my own and exchange them for something else. It’s a really great scheme so please check it out if you can. 🙂