Tag Archives: FREZ

Saving war-torn cities through education [and asking publishers and libraries to do more]

On Thursday, April 27, I spoke about Free Reading Zones in Osijek, a city in the East of Croatia that some 25 years after the (last) Balkan war, still shows visible signs of devastation and remnants of human cruelty. This “forgotten” city, as it’s often called, may still be hurting and trying to rebuild itself (I felt this on every corner and in every conversation), but it’s a city that recognizes the value of free access to knowledge. Otherwise the University of Osijek wouldn’t have invited me to speak about Croatia becoming an open virtual library.

Thursday was the first time I publicly spoke about turning Croatia into a Free Reading Zone since the pilot ended in January. And it didn’t happen in its capital (Zagreb) or its major tourist draw (Dubrovnik). Or in any other fancy coastal town on the Adriatic that reaps the benefits of its geography. It happened in the devastated and impoverished Northern city of Osijek, where bullet-ravaged buildings still populate even the main square (see picture).

It was an emotional three-day visit, my first in the fourth largest city in the country, where I spoke in an auditorium full of mostly students (some faculty) about the importance of free access to knowledge (ironically enough) outside institutions such as the University of Osijek, where the event took place. I spoke about the importance of universities and libraries raising their own awareness about the possibilities afforded to us by ebooks and econtent, which still remains largely locked away from most humanity. It took for me to leave New York to become acutely aware of that. Continue reading Saving war-torn cities through education [and asking publishers and libraries to do more]

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


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 pay-as-you-read 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 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 project 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 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 chapter 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 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 have not seen before—the kind that will finally give books in digital format the chance to show their true potential.”

See also