Tag Archives: Croatia Reads

What books are becoming [and what we may not be seeing]

This is Article 2 (following What readers want) in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series of articles on NSR, which aims to describe the experience of turning the country of Croatia into a Free Reading Zone in December 2016. The series is not meant to be a standard case study of all that various numbers and figures prove and don’t prove about the future of books and reading in digital format. It is an attempt to highlight the perspective that I think is missing in the publishing and library industries. The Croatia Reads project was/is meant to give all who work with books a glimpse of a future that holds so much promise for the written word. In this future things look radically different than they do today, but the possibilities are greater than they are today.


I start by responding to what I have heard publishers, librarians, and authors say for many years (especially in recent months), and what I no longer relate to as a publishing professional, passionate writer, life-long learner, and restless reader. This idea—this insistence—that books and knowledge must be protected. That there is a lot of logic behind how books are written, how they are published and distributed, and how they are curated and ‘saved’ for future generations. But is there? What if there used to be a lot more logic behind it all but that sam logic no longer applies today?

Books, I see now, do not want to be guarded or protected. They do not care to belong to any entity (human or artificial) and, in fact, do not want to belong even to those who create them (authors), claim them (publishers), and collect them (librarians). Books don’t want to be recommended and they don’t want to be judged. Like traveling souls yearning to meet a curious companion on their journey, they want to be free to reach the reader on their own terms. They want a relationship with the reader that is genuine and organic and does not involve outside forces.  And it is clear: they can only accomplish all this in digital format. Continue reading What books are becoming [and what we may not be seeing]

Croatia Reads was not about Croatia [but about free access to books for all mankind]

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This is Article 3 (following What readers want and What books want) in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series of articles on NSR, which aims to describe the experience of turning the country of Croatia into a Free Reading Zone in December 2016.


So what exactly  happened with ebooks in Croatia in December of 2016? The first two articles in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series, which focused on why the project was immensely beneficial for readers and books (and the future of books), left some questions unanswered, owing largely to my affinity for describing life’s experiences (not just this one) not in a linear fashion but instead in the way in which they get stored in my memory. This often has little to do with chronology and more to do with how various lessons from the experience present themselves to  me after the fact.

The Croatia Reads project, which I founded and managed, was many things to many people who are, in one way or another, affected by books either because they write them, read them, sell them, distribute them, or manage them. In retrospect, and perhaps more than anything, Croatia Reads was an attempt to present the library of the future in all its invisible glory. And this library is able to (finally) fully democratize the written word by virtue of becoming completely invisible, thus accessible to all people, all at once. This, as I’ve written in various other posts, is the vision I have both for the industry I love and have devoted two decades of my life to and for the world, which I’ve had the privilege of experiencing through life on three continents.

The idea came to me about a year ago in the midst of a meeting I was having with my (at the time) colleagues at Total Boox, the company behind the pay-as-you-read ebook model for libraries and direct consumers. Continue reading Croatia Reads was not about Croatia [but about free access to books for all mankind]

What readers want (and what we are not giving them)

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[Article 1 in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series]

This is Article 1 in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series, which aims to describe the experience of turning the country of Croatia into a Free Reading Zone in December 2016. The series is not meant to be a standard academic case study of all that various numbers and figures prove and don’t prove about the future of books and reading. It is an attempt to draw from the experience in a way that highlights all that is missing but within our reach. Croatia Reads was/is meant to give us a glimpse of a future that holds so much promise for the written word. In this future things look radically different than they do today, but the possibilities (and opportunities) for all who work with books are endless.

* * *

For the past many months, I’ve had the privilege of stepping outside the confines of the publishing and library industries (as well as the borders of the United States) to engage in non-profit projects and initiatives that bring books and knowledge to people. There comes a point in every person’s career when we crave to turn our professional jobs into missions, and it simply isn’t enough to earn a paycheck, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. We take a leap of faith and jump.

And jump I did, from New York all the way to Croatia, where I would (not immediately upon arrival but soon thereafter) embark on the project of my life and turn an entire country into an open virtual library (available to all its people without a card and access code and regardless of status, geography, background, citizenship, etc). In early December 2016, Croatia (the country of my birth) became the world’s first Free Reading Zone for one entire month. Continue reading What readers want (and what we are not giving them)

Croatia is the world’s first country to become a Free Reading Zone

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No Shelf Required is thrilled and honored to announce:

Croatia is the world’s first country to become a Free Reading Zone

No Shelf Required and Total Boox join forces in turning the country of Croatia into an open virtual library accessible via a free application—to residents and tourists alike—without a library card or an access code. The growing collection boasts 100,000 titles by top publishers in several languages.

Zagreb, Croatia — Croatia has just made history by becoming the first country in the world turned into a Free Reading Zone (FREZ), i.e., an open virtual library accessible to all people free of charge regardless of their location. This includes not only Croatian citizens but millions of tourists from around the world who visit the country each year, who may download a free reading app, called Croatia Reads. The app is powered by Total Boox, an ebook service known to publishers and librarians for its revolutionary model which makes ebooks instantly available—with no restrictions—while paying publishers for reading and affording readers a seamless and uninterrupted reading experience.

“As a web site advocating free access to books and knowledge for all people, No Shelf Required is honored to be the first sponsor of this historic project,” said Mirela Roncevic, editor of No Shelf Required and manager of the project. “NSR’s mission is to make access to books a right of every citizen, not a privilege tied to institutions and corporate interests, so it is fitting that we stand behind it. It also holds a special meaning to me personally because this remarkable story of books escaping the confines of book stores and library walls is taking place in the country of my birth.”

Readers in Free Reading Zones may browse Total Boox’ collection of 100,000 titles, which includes books in all categories of fiction and nonfiction; from popular to academic, from professional to practical. Over 250 publishers are participating, including an array of world-class brands, among them, Lonely Planet, Workman, Sourcebooks, Berlitz, Oxford University Press, F&W Media, O’Reilly, Other Press, Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, New World Library, Marshall Cavendish, Berrett-Koehler, Lerner, and many others.

The goal of the FREZ initiative is to spread reading to public and private spaces and endow them with culture. The ‘zones’ may be sponsored by private and public institutions, corporations or government entities and can be as small as single-buildings (e.g., hospitals, cafes) or as big as entire cities and countries (as in the case of Croatia).  “With all due modesty, this is really a world’s first,” said Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO of Total Boox. “It’s a general open invitation for all people to follow their interests and curiosities, wherever they are, at no cost and with no limitations. It’s not just about saving money. It’s about making culture and knowledge prevalent, about closing the digital divide, and about allowing the people to enjoy the fruits of the digital revolution.”

“With the launch of Croatia Reads, we have created a circle in which all segments of Croatia’s society benefit: culture, education, and tourism,” added Roncevic. “We have begun the next big revolution in the story of the book—the one where the potential of the digital medium is finally used to disperse knowledge to all who want it, when they want it, and how they want it. Croatia today stands as an example of what is possible with the book in the 21st century, and what is possible looks a lot like the democratization of the written word we’ve never seen before—the kind that will finally give books in digital format the chance to show their true potential.”

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