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Free books distributed across major cities to promote reading in China

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    15:34, November 15, 2016

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Celebrities in China have lately been hiding free books for passengers on metros, airlines and taxis in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in an effort to promote good reading habits among the public.

Launched by WeChat public account "thefair2" on Nov. 15, the promotional activity has become a presence on many users' WeChat friends circles. Over 100 Chinese celebrities and volunteers will distribute 10,000 books in public transport vehicles and taxis, encouraging commuters to enjoy reading and then “leave the book for someone else to find when you are finished.”

By scanning a two-dimensional code printed on all the books, readers can download messages left by the original owners, leave their own comments and track down other books’ locations. Around 10,000 such stickers will be made available to those wishing to donate books, helping them to distribute their collections.

The initiative comes on the heels of Emma Watson’s similar project in London, for which she distributed 100 copies of Maya Angelou’s memoir, "Mom & Me & Mom," across the London tube.

“We have contacted Cordelia Oxley, the director of Emma’s underground reading project, and have received support and suggestions from her. We appreciate the idea and hope to upgrade Emma’s project in China, promoting it nationwide,” announced the thefair2 via WeChat.

The activity has gone viral online, garnering over 28 million page views and 24,000 comments under the hashtag “BattleOfBookDistribution” on Sina Weibo within three hours.

The book distribution project has received a mixed reaction from the public, with some suggesting that it will stimulate people’s interest in reading, and others doubting its impact. Several Internet users have expressed concern that the books will be damaged over the course of the campaign.

“People nowadays tend to read fewer books due to the development of the Internet and stress from daily life. Such an interesting activity will help us to remember the joy of reading. More people will start to read more books,” one netizen wrote on Weibo.

Others, however, held different opinions.

“It’s naïve to rely on an activity to change Chinese people’s reading habits. I have seen some books left on Line 14 in Beijing. They didn't get picked up, and some people even sat on the books. I doubt the activity will change anything - it’s more like a stunt, I would say,” another netizen commented.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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