China turns a new page on reading

Updated 2017-04-22 11:30:50 Xinhua
An adult read books with a child at Zhongshuge bookshop in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, April 21, 2017. The bookshop with the elements of the amusement park, such as roller coasters, hot air balloons, the merry go round, and attracted many children and their family members. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)

An adult read books with a child at Zhongshuge bookshop in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, April 21, 2017. The bookshop with the elements of the amusement park, such as roller coasters, hot air balloons, the merry go round, and attracted many children and their family members. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)

World Book Day falls on Sunday, and Chinese people are seeking new ways of reading.

Borrowing books from street-side libraries for free, listening to excerpts of books on a TV show, reading via social media apps, kindling -- the novelties keep popping up and the vast Chinese readership loves them.

BOOK-SHARING SERVICES

Liu Yaqian, 29, works for a multinational company and describes herself as a "bookworm." She has borrowed around a hundred books from libraries in Beijing since 2011.

In March last year, she found a 24-hour automated library near her office that holds about 400 books. "It's as convenient as an ATM! I no longer have to make the trek to the traditional libraries that are often out of the way," she said. In the past year, Liu has borrowed more than a book per week from the 24-hour book dispenser.

The 24-hour library program is an innovation by the Capital Library of China and district libraries under the guidance of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture. They have been seen on the streets of Beijing since 2010. There are 174 street libraries, each about the size of a street-side food stand dotting both downtown Beijing and its outskirts.

Readers need to apply for a membership card before borrowing books, which are dispensed in much the same way as the soft drinks and snacks from the vending machines often found in train stations and airports. Books can be returned to any of these libraries.

"The 24-hour street libraries break the boundaries of traditional libraries, extending the tentacles of book-sharing to as many communities and streets as possible," said the mastermind behind the program.

Following the capital's lead, similar facilities have mushroomed across the country. In Changsha City in central China, the first batch opened in January this year.

The free libraries are constructed inside renovated movable containers, and all the 4000-plus books in each library have been donated.

"The 24-hour free libraries finally opened in my hometown, adding a warm and intellectual feel. I am so proud," wrote a user nicknamed "Xiaowo" on Sina Weibo.

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