Header images courtesy of 牧羊少年咖啡館 The Alchemist Café (via Facebook)
If you enjoy a book, set it free. Well, that’s not quite how the saying goes, but the practice of bookcrossing involves the swapping of books in public spaces. Besides encouraging an exchange of knowledge, bookcrossing also reduces waste by recirculating pre-loved books. Although bookcrossing is most popular in countries like the US, Germany, and the UK, there are several bookcrossing corners in Hong Kong where you can luck into a hidden gem. Share the joy of reading with these convenient bookcrossing spots in Hong Kong!
Unlike book swapping—in which you can take ownership of the books—bookcrossing assumes that readers will dutifully release the book after reading so that it can be passed on continuously to other people. Also, since the books are intended to circulate in the community, please be considerate and do not release outdated or damaged books.
Like the idea of an ancient magician that creates wonders from , The Alchemist Café flouts the limit—bringing together café-hoppers, art enthusiasts, and bookworms with its extensive collection and a diversity of artistic sessions and events.
Readers can drop off their books and receive a shop coupon to be used on food and drinks. When you feel like taking one, do it charitably with the $10 suggested donation, and all proceeds will support cultural and charitable projects. Release one book at a time, and some publications are not accepted, such as magazines, comic books, reference books, religious content, cheesy romances, or obscene articles.
Founded by a group of HKUST alumni, OnePile is a social enterprise known to offer a digital take on bookcrossing. Its designated platform streamlines the bookcrossing process—users can upload book details, reserve a book for pick-up, and “cross” the books using OnePile’s automated kiosks, which are installed with UV lights to eliminate germs. Operating in Central and Tsuen Wan, the bookcrossing machines invite a wide variety of titles, allowing people can browse through its well-catalogued inventory. Please note that NSFW and political content, travelogues, and schoolbooks are not accepted.
Nestled in Chancery Lane, Home as Space is a bookcrossing corner right behind Tai Kwun. Mainly storing English books, the community space attracts various genres from classic literature to travelogues. Outside of its business hours, readers can use the shelf by the entrance for swapping books, and the current collection is frequently updated on its Facebook page. Visitors can also meet the golden-furred shopkeeper, Bobo, who patrols the shop on his catwalk or sprawls under the chair for a sunbathing nap.
Home as Space, G/F, 7B Chancery Lane, Central
The Book Cure carves out a tranquil spot amidst a bustling wet market in Tai Po—an unusual spot, to be sure, but one that makes the search all the sweeter when you uncover its location. In this home for used books, the shopkeeper not only peddles titles—either bought or donated—at lower prices than regular retail, but they also offer a bookcase for bookcrossing purposes, so visitors are encouraged to bring their titles in for exchange.
The Book Cure, F021, Plover Cove Road Market, Tai Po
As part of its comprehensive teenage-oriented programme, the Hong Kong Playground Association has been a bookcrossing platform for 13 years. In partnership with RTHK, the organisation has attracted a lot of readers, with the Mong Kok branch boasting the largest trove of titles. Used books need to be registered at the Wan Chai office, but pick-up is available from any of its branches, allowing readers to browse through a miscellaneous collection that covers Chinese and English books and various genres.
Named after the shopkeepers’ puppy, Beibei Bookhouse is about finding inner peace in the present moment. Aside from reading, visitors can also enjoy the shop’s handmade delicacies, take part in tea tasting experiences and tuning fork workshops, and attend small concerts, providing a bucolic respite from the fast-paced city.
Holding a collection of more than 5,000 books, Beibei Bookhouse offers a bookcrossing service and a unique exchange programme in which readers can trade in their books for the home-grown vegetables from its farm. If you are looking for a nature-inspired reading experience, check this place out and enjoy the solitude granted by its cosy setting.
Beibei Bookhouse, 67 Tai Kong Po Tsuen, Kam Tin, Yuen Long
Located on a stretch of the Kwun Tong promenade, Vessel is a community-driven creative hub that uplifts the local arts scene, organising contemporary cultural activities for the public to participate in. In order to cultivate the practice of sharing, this venue has designated several baskets and boxes as bookcrossing corners, constantly restocked with used items for sharing. Both Chinese and English titles and even old CDs are up for grabs.
Vessel, 90 Hoi Bun Road, Kwun Tong