The dreaded commute is getting another literary facelift, this time in Shanghai. Just like initiatives in other parts of the world that aim to improve travelers’ often lengthy metro and subway rides by providing access to borrowable reading material, Shanghai’s bookselling chain Aizhi Bookstore is allowing commuters to rent a book for the ride and drop it off at a bookstall at the end of their rides. There are currently twenty-six book borrow stalls on the metro lines, and thirty locations in office buildings and neighborhoods where readers can return material.
Like other free programs such as Books for London, Books on the Underground, and Readioactive Books, Aizhi’s inexpensive book rental works strictly on the honor system by assuming that the borrower will actually return the book later. There are no registration cards or credit cards to secure the rental, just the willingness of the reader to return the book so that another passenger can borrow it.
Sadly, so far most of the unreturned books and magazines have been borrowed from rail station that ends at a major international airport, indicating that some patrons may be taking the reading material on flights with them. But Aizhi is not concerned, as most of the content that makes its way to the borrow stalls is not high-commodity or new release material. Like other programs of this kind, the company and individual readers can donate titles to the program.