The project has not just helped people find interesting books; it has also increased library membership. While getting young people to read was the reason behind the initiative, it has interested people across all ages.

What would you do if you stepped into an auto and heard an odd rattling sound emerging from its rear as the vehicle negotiates bumpy roads and speed breakers? Perhaps turn to find out the source of the sound. But you’d be in for a surprise as you might just discover a book you’ve been looking for.

The ‘`’, an initiative by the Chennai-based team behind www.iloveread.in, an online library, has made auto rides a lot more commuter-friendly and exciting. “We were looking at options for advertising our library, and displaying ads on autorickshaws seemed to be a good idea. But we didn’t merely want our company’s stickers on the vehicles and decided to liven things up a bit. At our library, we pull out books from circulation when they’re old or not in good condition. Instead of donating them, we thought we’d put them in autos,” says Kaber Vasuki, customer service, ilovereadin.

Getting started

Auto Reads took off in mid-May this year and has been active on the stretch between the Tiruvanmiyur MRTS station and Valmiki Nagar. “Right now, we’ve piloted the project with 20-odd autos, belonging to two auto stands on that stretch. We put three or four books in the back of each vehicle and the driver asks the passengers to pick these up,” says Kaber. “If they’ve not completed reading what they’ve selected during the ride or find a book they like, they can take it home,” he adds.

The project has not just helped people find interesting books; it has also increased library membership. Says Kaber: “We paste some information about the library on the back of each book so people can call us in case they like what they have picked up. Ever since we launched this initiative, we’ve been getting about three or four calls a day and have got about 15 or 20 new members. Our blog, on which we first posted information about our project, was shared on social networking sites and our site traffic has increased since then.”

While getting young people to read was the reason behind the initiative, it has interested people across all ages. “It’s a great way to motivate people to read, and book lovers are excited about the fact that they can find books in an auto,” says Kaber, “We don’t put too many books because we don’t want to hassle the auto drivers. We’ve had an elderly gentleman call us and say he found a rare spiritual book in one of the autos. He thanked us for our novel initiative.”

Variety of books

Besides, the books distributed among the autos are not limited in terms of genre. “The variety is mind-blowing — comics, fiction, Tamil poetry, spiritual books… there are books of every description. It’s an eclectic mix.”

S Arasan, an autorickshaw driver involved in the project finds it has increased his customer base. “Whenever customers travel in my auto, I tell them about the books and encourage them to read them. Sometimes they take a book they like when they leave, at other times, they take down the number on the ad at the back of the vehicle to get in touch with the team. Everyone I have seen enjoys the books. Quite a few people choose to travel in my auto because they know that there’s something special about the ride. I’m often thanked by passengers for an interesting ride. They say that sometimes they’re stressed out. But when they read a book, they forget their worries.”

Auto Reads is now accepting donations of books and hopes to reach the other parts of the city soon. “While we’re currently using books from our library, we’re open to donations from anyone who wants to give away books. We’ve already had a few people sending us comics and novels. While we hope to take this project to the next level we are hampered because the auto drivers need some incentive to carry the books in their vehicles. So far, the library has been meeting the cost of placing the ads on the autos, so that the drivers provide the space to store the books. We’re looking for corporates or business houses that want to use autos to display ads, this will help our initiative grow,” says Kaber.

For more information about Auto Reads, call 99406-68512.

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