Sunday, January 18, 2015
Should the Underground Offer Commuters an eBook Library?
Imagine getting free access to an electronic library when travelling on the tube. Well that is what travelers can now enjoy on Line 4 of the Beijing metro.
The metro lines carriages feature barcodes which people can scan with their tablets or smartphones and this then enables them to select from a selection of books.
Howeve,r there are some obvious challenges today. Firstly there is only a choice of ten books and these historical Chinese texts. This may be a novelty today and prove too restrictive for many tomorrow. Next, the books are planned to change every couple of months, which obviously gives anyone who starts close to the end of the cycle a reading challenge. Finally, the length of the texts is not clear, but if they were say the length of UK and US titles, it may prove uninviting to those who don’t commute every day, or whose journey is relatively short. Again it is unclear whether the books are downloaded or read online, so the question of offline, or off rail, reading is also unclear.
However, if we ignore the questions raised and focus on the opportunity we can see the potential for others to adapt the proposition for other commuter communities in other cities.
Imagine the highly successful London underground poems all being available to introduce many to poetry and give that daily food for thought. Imagine sample chapters being promoted by publishers to stimulate interest in their latest titles and not just the bestsellers. Imagine a new novel being introduced Dickens style by serialisation. Imagine a library linked to the city's public library, or the national library and allowing lending on the move to those that are entitled to the service.
The question of whether it is a public or private or joint service is an intresting one but should not be a barrier to encouraging reading.
The opportunities are not restricted by technology, as it exists today, but are only restricted by the vision and commitment to enabling travelers to enjoy reading.