Reading to the rescue: Online reading platforms make their content free to aid social distancing

Published: March 29, 2020 1:01 AM

Several online reading platforms have made their content free with the aim of making the process of social distancing a bit easier for people cooped up at home due to the lockdown.

Scribd, considered to be the world’s largest digital library, has also made available for free (for the next 30 days) over 60 million of its electronic books and audiobooks. Scribd, considered to be the world’s largest digital library, has also made available for free (for the next 30 days) over 60 million of its electronic books and audiobooks.

By Shriya Roy

Stuck at home and bored to death? There’s good news for you, as several digital libraries, e-learning and online reading platforms have allowed access to their content for free to help the world fight the Coronavirus outbreak with hope and positivity. From journals and books to podcasts, there’s a wide variety of material for you to choose from. These announcements came after self-isolation measures were put in place to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

JSTOR, a long-running large academic database, for one, announced on social media that 6,000 of its e-books and over 150 journals are now free for everyone to access. JSTOR also informed readers that it’s bringing out 26 public health journal archives.

Scribd, considered to be the world’s largest digital library, has also made available for free (for the next 30 days) over 60 million of its electronic books and audiobooks. “Today, with millions of people around the globe staying close to home to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, access to books and information is more important than ever before. Reading can offer incredible comfort. It reduces anxiety and makes us feel more accomplished and even happier,” said Trip Adler, CEO, Scribd.

Science Direct, a database of medical research, has allowed free access to its Novel Coronavirus Information Center, a site dedicated to peer-reviewed journal articles about the new pathogen. Then there is audiobook platform Audible, which is making hundreds of its titles available for free to help people cope with self-isolation. The platform announced that anyone can listen to a varied selection of its titles for free for as long as schools remain closed. A few of its titles include Westworld by Thandie Newton, Downton Abbey by Dan Stevens, classics like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes, White Fang, The Owl and the Pussycat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wind in the Willows, among others. “For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Starting today, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning and just being kids,” Audible said in a statement.

In India, digital book publishing house Juggernaut Books has announced that it will allow users free access to its app. The publishing house started the #readinstead campaign to encourage the country to stand together during these challenging times and practice social distancing. “Reading is quite simply the best way to achieve social distancing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could come out of this frightening moment enriched?” said Chiki Sarkar, co-founder, Juggernaut. Among the e-books that are available for free on the app are Nobel Prize-winners Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Good Economics for Hard Times, Sourav Ganguly’s A Century is not Enough and Kohinoor by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand.

Following strict lockdown measures in various parts of India and across the world, ACK Media, the publisher of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle comics, has also offered a month-long free subscription to their entire archives. Readers can access it through ACK and Tinkle mobile applications and websites. The initiative, ACK media says, will help those “cooped up in the house” due to the lockdown and make social distancing easier. “The Coronavirus scare has brought everything to a standstill. Since the outbreak, we are getting scores of messages on social networking sites… we just didn’t want to join the bandwagon. We instead chose to do something that would bring smiles on the faces of kids and parents stuck at home. All we could gift them was our content,” said Preeti Vyas, president, ACK, adding that the decision is a “gift” from the publishing house to the “children of India”.

Several cultural spaces, entertainers and artistes, too, have been releasing creative content for free on various online platforms with the aim of making this process of social distancing a bit easier and engaging.

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