The Free Book Incident: Nothing to Buy, Nothing to Return

Photo courtesy of Chris Burnside

The Free Book Incident (FBI), a month-long experiment & celebration of books & community. 
Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers and Olson Kundig Architects have partnered to create a unique environment to celebrate the power of books and investigate what can happen when they are available for free. FBI is inspired in part by The Book Thing of Baltimore, an ongoing free book exchange whose “mission is to put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them”. 
Wessel & Lieberman will be donating the books and Olson Kundig will be creating the space, which will include a three-way kinetic bookshelf with pivoting sections that will activate a multitude of spaces – nooks, stages, long tables, etc. “Our goal was to create an engaging environment that promotes access to books and allows visitors to interact with them in surprising ways,” says intern architect and installation co-curator Adam Monkaba.

For W&L the books became “unwanted” due to the tectonic shift in the book trade since the advent of online bookselling. Books that used to retail for $15-40 are no longer fit for the marketplace. Many of them have lost most of their “value” due to the flooding of the internet with inventory, both real and imagined, from all corners of the globe. The books remain perfectly serviceable, not beat up or damaged, and desirable (in the sense that if more people had the opportunity to actually “see” or happen upon the book they would want it).

We reached our tipping point.There is more value in releasing the books into our community then there is in offering them for sale. The Free Book Incident is a place for exploration, engagement, ideas, activity, conversation and ultimately, alchemy – all of it generated by the decommidification of books.

Over the course of the month there will be a multitude of book-infused programming from all corners of the book universe. From people reading from books to people making art from them and everything in between.

Stay tuned here and to the [storefront] Olson Kundig Facebook page for the schedule as it becomes available.

The opening reception for The Free Book Incident is scheduled for January 10, 5:30-8:30pm. Food, drink, and nearly 2,000 free books, will be provided.

In addition to special events, [storefront] will be open Monday through Friday, 11:30am -1:30pm during which time visitors can browse for books.

Olson Kundig Architects will accept book donations during the installation on the ground floor of 159 S. Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104, M-F 8am-5pm

FBI will run from January 10th thru mid-February, and will be located in the Olson Kundig Storefront at 406 Occidental in Pioneer Square. You can have a look at previous installations at Olson Kundig’s Storefront Facebook page and here is a video featuring Alan Maskin and Kirsten Murray talking about the firm’s experimental work space.

This is going to be memorable month.

If you are a book leaning organization or artist in or around the Seattle area and would like to participate in programming an event at FBI please contact me at michael@bookpatrol.net. 

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