Madrid: Free Books Bookstore
Bookstores of the world, move over and make room for a new joint in town: The Free Books Bookstore, Librería Libros Libres.
Yes, books are free, if you so wish, in that bookstore. I'll get to that if you'll just keep on reading. However, the subtle nicety about this cool name is the fact that "free" also stands for freedom. As the NGO, Grupo 13 who set this bookstore up says, "books are an antidote for the crisis".
I can't but wholeheartedly agree. Read, educate yourself, step out of your known world into another that's either brighter, or a little bit more somber, or magic, or fantastic, or philosophic … or simply different. That's books for you, an eye opener for a whole different world.
Our dream is to achieve the same dynamics achieved in Baltimore thanks to people's involvement: Thousands of books incoming and outgoing every week, and for this to be an economically viable project.
Librería Libros Libres
Baltimore is the birth place of this concept. It was 1999 when The Book Thing of Baltimore opened its doors. So what's this concept, then?
Essentially, it's a place where books are free for the taking. Or you can drop a cent for each of the books you take home. Or a dollar. As much or as little as you can. Or want.
Vice versa, you can drop books that you've already read for others to pick up and read. You'll be kindly asked to sign a disclaimer that you're willingly giving away books that are of your property.
Publishing houses contribute. And so does the general public, us folks on the street, who donate books for others to read. Trash for you, treasure for another, as they say. That very outdated concept, yes. I dropped off 15 books or so, fiction and non fiction. Not the first time I donate books, but the first I do so with such eagerness.
- Libros libres, una librería gratis o casi, para todos - En primera persona
Very nice description of the bookstore from Spanish public television news (in Spanish).
How did I find out
The bookstore opened mid September 2012, and somehow they managed to attract attention in all the right places.
Perhaps because in this dreary economic climate we live in, all ideas or businesses that show some solidarity are media worthy indeed. Perhaps because it's cool to show the cool ideas.
Step in, please
The straw that broke the camel's back for me, so to speak, was the radio morning show, where they interviewed one of the fellows that work there, Alejandro.
That day, and not one day later, I stepped into this wonderful realm of books for free.
The line outside was monumental, this is a street level apartment on a regular housing building, and my excuse to get ahead of the line was to have been carrying the miserable weight of about 15 books to donate.
I could step ahead of the line, but of course I couldn't linger inside. So I went back to do just that, linger and enjoy.
Right then and there I found out it's not only about books, they also carry DVDs, some of them for rent, and these fellows aim to, little by little, through donations, build up a collection that will be a reference in my fair city. Kudos.
How it Works
There are three ways you can grab books out of this bookstore:
- Browse, pick and take away, at no cost at all.
- Browse, pick and drop some change or whatever you can drop for the books you're taking away.
- Subscription at 12 euro (15 or 16 US dollars) year –year, mind you. This allows you to grab any books available. Or not. Perhaps you don't need more books that you already have, and you just want to support that others can avail themselves to reading, culture, dissenting opinions, the world seen from a different standpoint. Perhaps you just want to make this a better world, as the fellows at Libros Libres seem to want to achieve.
Their aim is to get 365 subscriptions a year, one person per day, to keep the bookstore operating.
But you needn't subscribe. You can just go and spend a while browsing and then pick and go. Or just go, freely. They don't look at you funny, I was there and witnessed this. You're really free to take away as many books as you want without dropping a red cent in any box.
But here's the funny thing, it seems no one picks bunches of books and goes. One could, but doesn't. In my research, I've found the same to be true in Baltimore… Folks who really can't afford books won't take a hundred and go. They'll take a couple and then come back. Which is why the whole concept makes me all supportive, and then some.
There are folks as well who could probably afford to drop 10 dollars for a couple of books, or 10 dollars for 5 books, as well. But that's not the point.
The point is that books are there, and they are made available for the public at large. Whether you can afford them or not, or whether you just want to grab something and then spend your very meager cash on a beer…
Is there a BUT?
I'm aware that some authors would scream and shout at the possibility that their books are bought once and read twice (that we know of, at least), but this isn't piracy, this isn't wrong use of intellectual property, this is genuine lending. The money potentially made of any giving and taking of books is meant for the sharing to continue, thus enriching the lives of citizens.
Right now, in this country of mine, in the world at large, anything that enriches people's lives is, at the very least, commendable.
A better world
Books, and reading, hold the key to a better, more educated world. Books hold secrets, adventures, mysteries, thoughts. Books, and reading hold the key to brighter citizens, and a brighter society.
This world we live in would be a much better place should we all read 10 minutes a day at least, long live Free Books Bookstore.