Let's introduce ourselves! Here we have Ballycumber the Bookcrossing mascot. And there, Ballycumber, please meet the readers. Do we all agree to proceed without further delays? Fine...
I think that what I'm going to answer today is the most difficult question asked of a BC member. Mainly because there is no clearcut answer. So I always prefer to answer in two variations.
The first version, that I tell people when I do not have time to explain at length or whom I know have limited Internet experience, is a standard reply: Bookcrossing is leaving books in a public place and then following their travels via the Internet. Something similar to the entry in the Oxford dictionary ("the practice of leaving a book in a public place so that another person can find it, read it and then leave it where somebody else will find it"). I say this and am done. But let's leave this version aside.
The second part is more complicated. mafaldaQ has said Bookcrossing is the "modern message in a bottle" and we like this point of view. Let me explain...
Bookcrossing loves books. Look, it doesn't love only good books; it loves books as a commodity, as one of the most beautiful expressions of culture. Also, BC dislikes that books have become simply a matter of property, another object with which to decorate our homes.
Thus, the two parts are intertwined.
The BC community (because a close-knit community is what makes BC, and not vice versa) proposes, therefore, in relation to the above: Do not allow books to gather dust on your bookshelves. Set them free, let chance decide who will be their next readers. That's the "message in the bottle" we mentioned earlier.
Certainly there are many books on our shelves that will never be re-read. Because we didn't like them, because the second time is never like the first, maybe because we don't have the time, amidst the great quantity and variety of today's publishing output. Or surely there are still so many books with which we passed a pleasant hour, with which we were moved or made to smile, yet we can't discuss them with others, as none of our acquaintances has read them.
Bookcrossing says here, "release them." Why? Well, firstly, one man's trash is another one's treasure! Second, the next reader will do the same: set the book free again so that it will be in turn found by another reader, and so on ...
That's why the answer to the question "What is Bookcrossing" isn't definite... Is it a community that loves books? Is it an Internet game? A form of activism? Some romantic types who leave books right and left? A peculiar form of recycling? Probably all of the above at once.
Still, it is the joy of releasing a book, of hunting for a book (left by someone else) and mainly the catch (when someone finds my book, especially if they are not yet a BC member). I know that may seem insignificant or silly, but wait until your own book is caught!
See what Bookcrossing is, and how it started, here: