Subway Books in Chile / Rebeca Monzo

Traveling around Santiago with a friend, in the subway I was very taken with seeing people sitting on the steps of the stairs in some stations, with their laptops open, absorbed in what they were doing. My friend explained to me that many of the stations had free WiFi connections.

Another thing that struck me was the cleanliness and beauty of the stations, they seemed like art galleries. But what most caught my eye were the “Subway Books”:

As a way of distributing and making books accessible, these Subway Books have more than 2,400 titles, which are available to the 29,000 or so people who circulate via the underground train every day.

Italian, Colombian, American, British, Chilean novels. Books of essays, parapsychology, universal history, cooking, painting, etc. from the publishers Anagrama, Zeta, Seix Barral, Norma, Salamandra, just to name a few, are among the volumes that are available to users of the metro.

How do you become a member?

All children under age 18 and seniors over sixty, simply present an identity card, passport or school pass. Those over 18 school show a school ID and pay 1,000 Chilean pesos per year ($ 2.00). Once a member, you can withdraw and return books at any station, putting them in the mailbox that exists for this purpose.

Now you tell me, how a country can boast of its culture, when it has a single newspaper (of 4 pages), books are mostly political, and access to other titles is almost impossible. And the four existing television channels are not only repetitious but also work for the same owner and censor?

May 10 2011