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Real Books versus the Kindle: Read on the Fly Without Your own Book

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The new trend isn’t about real books versus the Kindle or the iPad. Reading someone else’s book is one of the latest things to do in an airport

Reading the old fashioned way on a train platform, but many public areas aren’t far behind.

To me, traveling and carrying a book go hand in hand. In fact, I like to carry several books at once, just in case I finish one or want to switch things up a little. But especially when I am backpacking, books can weigh down on my shoulders. I haven’t yet invested in a Kindle, Nook or other eReader.

Given the latest travel trends, I may not have to. The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has taken a pioneering initiative and set up the world’s first digital library for transit passengers. Available in English or Chinese, and in ePub or Zinio formats, the library currently has four hundred titles. You can read them at the airport, but can’t take them with you or download them onto your own e-book device. Right now, there are only 30 digital readers available to read the books, so there might be a line.

I myself have never been to Taiwan, but this initiative has certainly sparked my interest in going. Plus, I think this is a great alternative to the more commercial options to spend your time at the airport, for example at the spray tanning in London’s Gatwick, the Xpress spa in New York’s JFK, or the airport wedding service in Amsterdam. Reading is much more valuable – and healthy – than getting a fake tan.

Spain, too, has been following along closely in making literature available to its passengers. The EMT buses and metros in Madrid have long been adorned by short poems and book excerpts, thanks to the Libros a la Calle program. There are even entire bibliobuses, meaning mobile libraries, that circulates throughout the Spanish capital. Other regions such as Zaragoza, León, and Barcelona, have installed bibliobuses, too. In 2007, the streetcars of San Sebastian became notorious for providing a collection of 150,000 books for passengers to read on Sundays.

But the availability of books transcends the municipal and regional limits. Renfe, the national train company, has installed a lending service where you can borrow books on the trajectories Madrid-Ávila-Salamanca and Cádiz Sevilla. Titles include works by Shakespeare, Verne, and other important international authors.

Catalonia has also offered similar reading initiatives in Catalán. In 2008, the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) and Grup 62 provided readers the opportunity not only to borrow books but moreover organized readings in public locations and a whole week dedicated to honoring the paperback book. FGC clients moreover received discounts and advance purchase opportunities on upcoming books.

The slogan from the San Sebastian campaign was ¡Un libro, un viaje en compañía!, which can be translated as “A book, a journey with company.” With Shakespeare, Vernes, García Márquez or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to choose from, you will always be in good company.

* Photo: Moriza

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2 thoughts on “Real Books versus the Kindle: Read on the Fly Without Your own Book”

  1. I’m a book lover too and have stuck with old-fashioned paper books. 🙂 I love that these places are supporting and encouraging reading though!!

  2. A post to my heart. I never leave home without a book and I mean the old fashioned kind and like you, I often read two or three at once, just for a change of mood. Not being a backpacker (not appropriate for a glamour granny, ahem) I have no problem with weight. The initiatives you mention are fantastic, just what a bookworm traveler needs.

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