“Croatia Reads”: Reach into a holiday digital library offering more than 100,000 book titles

Objavljeno 9.12.2016.

On 6 December 2016 Croatia as a country became the world’s first “free reading zone”. As a result of the Croatia Reads project, throughout December and until the middle, or possibly end of January 2017, booklovers on the entire Croatia’s territory will be offered free and unlimited access to over 100,000 book titles. Although the majority of included titles are in the English language, this rich digital library, apart from works in German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and other world languages, also offers several hundred titles by Croatian publishers.

This worthy undertaking, an offshoot project run as part of the Free Reading Zones global initiative, was developed and launched by Mirela Rončević, former Book Review Editor at Library Journal, editor of the American Library Association’s (ALA) journal eContent Quarterly and instructor of ALA’s course What Librarians Need to Know About Ebooks. After three decades of living and working in the United States, Rončević has returned to Croatia with this truly revolutionary project, which makes possible the overcoming of all standard obstacles to free and wide access to information and knowledge contained in books as well as a complete opening of the book and its liberation from the fetters of institutional constraints through the use of digital technologies.

With over 300 world-leading publishers such as Workman, Algonquin, New World Library, Other Press, Red Wheel Weiser, O’Reilly, Berrett-Koehler, Elsevier, F + W Media, Berlitz, Lonely Planet, etc., this project currently makes available editions published by several Croatian publishers – Naklada Ljevak, Fraktura and Meandar.

In order to gain unlimited access to this online library, which continues to grow both in terms of new titles as well as publishers deciding to join it, one only needs to download the Croatia Reads free reading application, which is compatible with the majority of smartphones and tablets running Android and iOS operating systems (iPads, iPhones and Kindle Fires). Although some could object that the very condition of possessing or at least having access to such devices may prevent a significant number of potential users from enjoying the benefits of a free reading zone, this devices are nevertheless available to a large part of the world population, including Croatian citizens, and this availability is daily becoming wider.

Apart from the satisfaction of “zone users”, who are able to enjoy reading without being distracted by any kind of advertisement or similar intrusions, this model of free reading is also absolutely satisfying for authors and publishers. Namely, Total Boox, an Israeli/U.S. company, which Rončević runs this project in cooperation with, uses the most advanced technologies for detailed monitoring of all “zone”-related reading activities. It is based on this precise monitoring data that publishers and authors are compensated for the consumption of their works. Financial resources for copyright fees are provided by “zone” sponsors, and the sponsor for this initial Croatia’s “free reading zone” period is No Shelf Required, a non-profit portal advocating free access to information and knowledge and the use of digital technologies and media as a powerful means for spreading all kinds of literacy.

The representatives of Croatia Reads are currently negotiating with potential Croatian government and private sponsors that would be interested in providing long-term financial support to this progressive and socially immeasurably useful initiative. Apart from the promotion that they would secure for their institutions and enterprises, and that in relation to socially relevant fields of culture and education, potential sponsors should by all means be motivated to support the Free Reading Zones initiative by an awareness that their contribution to it is at the same time contribution to the spreading of knowledge and improvement of society at the global level.

(The source of the featured photograph: HRT Magazin. The source of the logo used in the featured photograph: Free Reading Zones)