As commuters in London, most of us are familiar with the free papers and magazines regularly thrust into our willing hands to make our journeys that bit more bearable. But what if someone gave you a book instead of the Evening Standard? Chris from Books for London spoke to Hollie who writes the Books on the Underground blog, someone who has made it her mission to do just that.
Books for London (BfL): Everyone reads on the tube – so what was your inspiration for releasing books on it?
Books on the Underground (BOTU): Everyone does read on the tube and a lot of people read the Metro every morning, but I noticed from the regular commuters that most often they’re reading books and I would see the same book about, go home and Google it and add it to my reading list. So I thought wouldn’t it be nice if you could just share the books you read every day? I’m always recommending books to friends and lending books out. So I just thought this was a nice way to go about sharing books in a fun way.
BFL: How many books have you released since you started – and what’s your favourite of the ones you have?
BOTU: Oh I have released a lot, so many I’ve lost count. I just hope they’ve all gone to good homes (and hopefully been returned to the tube!) It’s somewhere in the hundreds, probably thousands of books have been released. Transworld donated over 400 books for London Book Fair so that was a fair chunk. My favourite books I’ve released have been the book thief, which funnily enough you can’t steal when it’s free on the tube. And also the underground Man by Mick Jackson.
BFL: Have you ever come across a book ‘in the wilds’ (i.e one that you haven’t released yourself) of the tube, and if so, what did you do?
BOTU: I haven’t come across any rogue books. If I did, I probably decide whether or not I wanted to read before picking it up or leaving it. For me, there’s just one goal in my project and that’s to share books and get people reading I don’t mind where that comes from. I did get a rogue tweet from someone who had set up their own books on the underground style twitter; it looked suspiciously like my sticker too. But I guess that just goes to show people like the idea.
BFL: Do you have any special techniques for reading on a crowded tube if you can’t get a seat?
BOTU: Haha! Not really, I have bit short sight vision as well, so if it’s too crowded I’m hopeless.
BFL: What’s your favourite book about London, or set in London?
BOTU: Ooh this is a tough one. Tragically, it’s probably One Day by David Nicholls. I really enjoyed that book.
BFL: Would you be happy to directly swap your book with a stranger on the tube, once you had finished it?
BOTU: I think one of the reasons Books on the Underground works well for me is because I’m quite shy like that. I’m not very good at approaching people I don’t know. I could never be one of those charity people who ask for your money in the street I’d be terrible. And I’m that useless person that feels mean ignoring them, so always ends up in an awkward conversation or getting spam emails for weeks to come.
BFL: Final question – on the tube: paperback or Kindle?
BOTU: Well obviously it has to be Paperback. You can’t nosey at what people are reading if it’s a kindle and that’s just rubbish. (unless you’re reading 50 shades of grey and then I guess you have to opt for the Kindle) But I do not own a Kindle, yet.