Open Book

Book sharing services proliferate around the world

As NOwners, young people are seeking out ways to borrow and rent items, rather than purchase them. This disruptive mindset is now being applied to books, which many often read only once and then store on a shelf. New services around the world are encouraging readers to lend or donate their used books to the community, as well as to borrow tomes from others.


While many cities have ousted free mini-libraries based on building codes and laws, at least one city is actually installing them. The Public Collection is a project that recently placed several free book-sharing stations throughout Indianapolis. Each of the units is unique, having been designed by a local artist, and they are located in convenient indoor and outdoor spaces around the city, including parks and homeless shelters. To ensure the mini-libraries have a reasonable life expectancy, the organization has secured two-year permits and contracts for each. The initial collection includes donations from the Indianapolis Public Library, but anyone can add their own used books to the shelves.


The vast majority of books are housed in people’s private collections at home. Launched in France a few months ago, the Booxup app aims to open personal bookshelves to the public by enabling readers to share their books with their neighbors, as well as get their hands on others’ books. The app leverages users’ location data to alert them to books available from others nearby. Moreover, it facilitates meetings and discussions among readers: to borrow a book, one messages the owner and arranges a meeting time to pick up the chosen volume. Inevitably, the exchanges lead to connections among those who have similar taste in literature.


Operating in Mumbai, ClapShare also relies on users to offer up their own books to others. Users earn credits for having lent out books, and they can then apply those credits to borrow books for free. If they don’t have a bank of credits, they can still request books for a small rental fee. In addition, the service eliminates the hassle of picking up and returning books: the company’s staff collects the desired book from the owner and delivers it straight into the hands of the borrower. Users can request any book, and if ClapShare can’t locate it in one of its users’ libraries, it will acquire a copy.