There has never been another time in history in which reading has been so accessible to everyone. It’s something that makes me incredibly happy.
Even for people without the time or inclination to sit down and read an entire book, changes in technology have made it easier than ever to fill your vacant hours with a written tale.
Since I was a child, I have loved a book’s ability to completely immerse you in a world outside your own. You can discover the land of giants and dreams with the BFG, or become a dragonrider of Pern or – a slightly more scary prospect – face a White Walker.
Even non-fiction books can take you to a time and place you may have never experienced, or allow you to find people with whom you have a great deal in common, at a time when you may feel very alone.
As a self-confessed bookworm, the prospect of being forced to spend long periods of time in my home with my nose between the covers has not been too daunting.
However, the closure of many of Australia’s libraries, along with bookshops and second-hand stores, has forced me to consider how I’m going to be accessing new titles into the future, should the shutdown last for a considerable period. So, let’s look at some options.
There is a huge industry being built around audio books. Time on the treadmill, walking the dog, doing the washing up, cleaning the house, gardening, can all be spent in company with the sound of a book being read aloud.
Do not fear the boring drone. The production of modern audio books are generally excellent and the talent used to read them (if not the author themselves then an actor), make the listening experience a pleasant one.
There are services which provide subscriptions to allow you paid access to audio books, or you can explore free options (more on this later).
Audio books also offer a great opportunity to experience a book with a partner or as a family. Anyone who has broken up a long family car trip with Stephen Fry’s wonderful adaptation of Harry Potter will attest to an audio book’s power to keep the bickering at bay. If it works in the confines of a car, surely we can put it to use on the home front?
There are endless reading possibilities on offer online. If you have an eReader, such as a Kindle, you can purchase new releases across a range of genres. Some titles which are out of copyright can also be accessed free of charge.
Libraries have been building their stock of online books and magazines. If you are already a member, log on and find the huge array of eBooks, audio books, eMagazines, comics and eMusic on offer.
There are also free databases offering millions of titles. The Internet Archive, for example, is a not-for-profit collection of digital cultural artifacts, such as web pages and more than 20 million books and texts. It allows you to borrow, much like a library. You can also check out databases such as Trove, a collection which includes editions of Australian newspapers dating back to the early days of Australia’s colonial settlement.
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While book clubs cannot meet currently, there are opportunities for them to continue online. If you are wanting to start one for the first time on a budget, the book club could begin by reading a freely sourced novel, such as a classic, or a novel to which everyone has access at home.
For people without access (or the desire) to read online, it may be possible to band together and organise a book swap. With appropriate organisation (and sanitation measures), bundles of books could be passed between households for others to enjoy.
Or, like me, you could take the opportunity to rediscover your favourites. I am one of those strange creatures (completely baffling to people who read books only once) that have handled some of my favourites to shreds. Head back into the shelves and rediscover the stories that thrill you. .