Shyam Kumar (24) and his grandfather S. Balajee (71) are ardent book lovers. While Shyam, a management consultant finds little time to visit libraries, Mr. Balajee has health constraints that prevent him from travelling. But, both are able to indulge in their passion as selecting a book is just a click away. The book is delivered on their doorstep; a deadline for return is negotiable and a ‘fine' is a thing of the past.

This is what some lending libraries in the city are doing to take reading to the people. A powerful digital presence is merely the first step but what these enterprising book-lovers are looking at is changing the traditional notion of library. Websites such as www.bookandborrow.com, www.iloveread.in and www.booksatbookmark.com have succinct and catchy descriptions of books categorised into different genres, and information about the authors.

Apart from fancy frames that contain updates from the literary world, these websites have interactive forums and blogs to enable readers to share their experiences and rate the books. From horror, history, cookery and travel to a host of biographies and old classics, there are many options and once the choice is made, all that is left is a call to the delivery service.

“We don't believe in fines, because one way to encourage leisure reading is to give readers the time they want with the book,” says Minnie Amirapu, founder-promoter, bookandborrow. “We recommend books to our readers, apart from sending them regular updates,” she adds. Run by four women from different backgrounds, the initiative, she says, seeks to take the habit of reading to a larger audience, keeping the compulsions of modern life in mind.

Karthik T. S. (26), a software professional who along with three other colleagues, started ‘booksatbookmark' three years ago shares the sentiment. Interactions with publishers and writers are things Karthik wishes to implement soon on his site that already has a catalogue of books, services and authors to choose from and read about.

Office-goers, senior citizens and home-makers find these services very convenient. For G. Annalakshmi (66), the concept is highly satisfying because it helps her save time on transport, and yet get regular books delivered at home, while for Haritha. S. (32), it encourages useful browsing habits among children. “It works out quite well on the cost factor and enables continuity of reading,”she says. An IIT alumnus, Amrutash Mishra left his job at an MNC to found an online library, iloveread.in, with two of his friends who share his passion for reading. Organising story-telling and reading sessions and games for children are the other activities they conduct to make reading an engaging experience. “This is an awesome time to read, as an increasing number of books are getting published everyday, everywhere,” Mr. Mishra says.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012