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Books for London: Trading Literature on the Tube
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Books for London: Trading Literature on the Tube

Picture of Sarah Zakzouk
Updated: 25 January 2016
Winner of the first #ideas4Mayor competition in 2011, Books for London is an innovative programme focused on sharing books in London. Sarah Zakzouk from the organisation tells us about the initiative, which aims to get Londoners reading by promoting book swapping on the train and underground networks.
London Book Swap

The London Book Swap campaign is an initiative with the aim of creating a London-wide book sharing scheme throughout London’s railway network. The campaign was the winner of the first #ideas4Mayor competition at the London Policy Conference in 2011. London Mayor, Boris Johnson said of the campaign: ‘I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy.’


The campaign was started in 2011 by Chris Gilson who is a committee member of the West Ealing Neighbours community group, and has championed this charitable initiative to promote literacy and book-sharing in the capital. The campaign is being driven by volunteer support, and the goal is to reach as many of the 700 underground and railway stations in Greater London as possible.


It is estimated that up to 13 million books are sent to the UK’s landfills every year. Given current resources and landfill constraints, this simply is not a sustainable option, and is also a waste of good reading material. To combat this, the scheme hopes to recycle these books through book-sharing. With hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling through London’s stations, this is the perfect opportunity to put these books back into circulation, to get people inspired and reading more. With many people spending a large portion of their day commuting to and from work, this programme encourages commuters to not see this as wasted time, but to utilise these hours by testing out the London Book Swap collection.


Tube Reading

The Book Swap idea is simple: shelves are established in the train stations and commuters can use them to pick up books they would like to read, and drop off books that they would like to give away. This scheme builds on already-successful initiatives such as Bookcrossing and local pub and hostel swap schemes. Once in place, Books for London would like to track the journeys of these books, to see where they started, where they ended up, and what people thought of the read. This is an optional social media interaction forum.


Started in 2011, Books for London is still growing. Currently there are book swapping stations in Acton Central, Charlton, Cheam, Enfield Chase, Kingston, Raynes Park, Sawbridgeworth, Stratford, West Ealing Station and Wimbledon.


For more information please visit the Books for London website.


By Sarah Zakzouk

Images courtesy of Books for London.