December 12, 2016
Go to Croatia; read for free
by Peter Clark
Croatia. You know, that Mediterranean gem that is known for Euro-bros strolling shirtless on the beach, men named Dragon, and being the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. Well, that and being the real-world Westeros. (Actually, considering the rise in tourism, Game of Thrones may be what it’s best known for.)
This week, Daniela Rogulj writes for Total Croatia News, the country debuted a new service, powered by an e-book platform called Total Boox, under the name of Croatia Reads. Total Boox offers is unlimited reading without waiting. It might not seem like a big deal, but for anyone stuck in a library’s electronic queue to get a book, this kind of idea is game changer — and possibly a little troubling.
Mirela Rončević, project manager of the initiative, described the project in grand language:
“This is the full democratization of the written word…. Sponsors support the noble mission which is equally related to culture and education and tourism and to help spread knowledge everywhere, thus enriching society.”
Funded by a combination of government agencies and undisclosed private donors, the free App allows locals and tourists alike to read any of the top-selling 100,000 e-books in the world for free anywhere within the country’s borders. But it’s not clear yet, half a year after the app’s release, whether the program has had an impact on book sales overall. The San Jose Public Library conducted a trial of Total Boox’s platform earlier this year, and it doesn’t look like they’ve continued with the program.
As a reader, lover of libraries, lover of bookstores, and supporter of authors, I find these programs troubling, both for how they can funnel readership in a certain direction and for how they threaten to restrict an important source of income for authors. But that said, it might be time to pack my bags and visit Croatia to read for myself.
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.