Beijing aims to get commuters back on track to reading

Initiative will offer subway passengers the chance to read classic books for free

Commuters in Beijing can now  use their smartphones to read  classic texts provided by the National Library of China Beijing commuters can use their smartphones to read classic books

Commuters in Beijing can now use their smartphones to read classic texts provided by the National Library of China Beijing commuters can use their smartphones to read classic books

 

The most common sight on the Beijing subway is of faces lit from beneath in blue as commuters watch videos, television shows and films on their mobile phones during the increasingly long commutes they have to endure in the nation’s capital.

Now the National Library of China and the Chinese education ministry are hoping to harness some of that attentionand use it to encourage people to read more books.

Using the WeChat social network accounts or other social media, commuters can use their smartphones to scan the QR code in the train carriage, sign up and then gain access to a classic text provided by the National Library.

The “M Subway Library” launched on January 12th on subway Line 4 and the first theme is “Our Characters”.

Slogans in the stations say “Passengers that are readers, readers that are passengers.”

Themed activities

Deputy curator of the National Library Wei Dawei told Chinanewscom he hoped the programme would help improve cultural awareness and bring reading and knowledge to life in people’s daily lives.

This event will show the history, legacy and cultural significance of more than 30 characters in China, linked to two websites and exhibitions in the metro and in the National Library.

“More important than to criticise is to change,” said the National Library’s Tian Miao, who told the China Youth Daily that reading a physical book was difficult on a train, but that with a phone it was much easier.

Just as in the US, where ebooks now regularly outsell regular books, it was only a matter of time before the digital book took over in China.

Chinese people are among those in the world who read the least, according to Unesco data, and the country’s education ministry and the National Library are keen to take advantage of lengthy commutes to encourage people to read more, rather than use their smartphones purely to play games and watch movies or TV; Chinese people watch 60 per cent of all video content on their mobile phones or tablets.

The National Library will also organise various activities during the year and recommend a number of free books to the public.

Positive reaction

Sina Weibo

“I support the opportunity to read,” wrote Qingka Zhinuan, while another online commentator, Zhizhui Chanyang, said that using the time on the subway to read was a good way to kill time and to enrich one’s knowledge.

Some commentators were sceptical, with Wuyag 0095 quipping: “We should have wifi first.”