Croatia, what is now an open digital library, is the first country in the world that is truly a Free Reading Zone, announces Buro247 on 6 December, 2016. From today in Croatia, the top 100,000 digital books from all over the world are available to you to read for free, anywhere within the Croatian borders and without membership cards or special codes. Croatian citizens and those traveling within Croatia can read a plethora of books from around the world, in various languages including Croatian.
So what do you have to do? All that is required of you is to download the free app “Croatia Reads” for Android or iOS smartphones and tablets, sign up, and read anytime and anywhere within Croatia.
The project Free Reading Zones was first introduced in early autumn when the Velvet Café in Zagreb became the first free reading zone in Croatia, becoming somewhat of a pilot for the project. Today, with the launch of the application, Croatia has become a country where a revolution has erupted in the form of books; the first time that a free library, rich with international bestsellers and academic books, has become available to all people within a state.
I passed on this story when it first crossed my desk because this isn't actually the first such project, and describing it as such made this project less of a news story than a PR stunt for TotalBoox.
This program doesn't really do much that you couldn't already do with a reading app, a smartphone, and access to free ebook sites.
Sure, this is a program organized on a national scale, but that still doesn't make it a first given that it is fundamentally similar to WorldReader. That non-profit has been running a literacy program since 2010. It first started with Kindles but later realized that helping people read on their phones was more cost-effective.
According to their site, WorldReader reaches "readers in 52 countries, providing them with 45,904 book titles in 43 languages". So basically WorldReader is doing the same thing as Croatia Reads, only on an international scale.