This is not exactly a travel story, but it’s such a brilliant idea I thought it worth a spot on the blog…
I’ve been reading the Dutch Book Week Present. My wife was given it for free because she bought another Dutch book. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful little story called Duel by Joost Zwagerman, published in a neat hardcover edition, and I’m very pleased to have read it.
Each year the Netherlands Book Week committee publishes a novella commissioned from a Dutch author. This little book is then given away by bookstores to customers who purchase books to a certain modest value. Good value for them and the publishers and authors because it stimulates book buying and reading.
Then on the Sunday of Book Week itself, copies of this Boekenweekgeschenk (Book Week Present) become valid train tickets. Anyone clutching a copy of the book can travel free all day on the trains to anywhere in the country. The expectation is that readers will meet up with other train travellers on a Book Week pass and run an informal book club session during their journey.
Is this not the most brilliant idea, stimulating reading, social interaction and use of public transport? Could it work in other countries too? I would love to see Australians meeting each other on a pleasant Sydney ferry ride, chatting for twenty minutes about the latest Tim Winton, Peter Carey or Kate Grenville.
It would surely cost very little to organise – even if the commission/publishing element were omitted (which would be a pity) it would be possible to simply nominate, say, three newly published books which would operate as tickets for the day. Leave the rest up to the public. If people who are normally non-readers rush to buy the books for the bonus travel, that’s a plus. If book readers who are normally non-public transport travellers take advantage of the scheme, that’s good publicity for the railways, buses and ferries.
How about it? Could it work in your city?