Tuesday, 20th July 2010
Editorial The Times
Taking the books where the people are


The Books On The Beach initiative launched by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Tourism and Culture and the National Book Council is most welcome. The concept of taking books to where people gather and not waiting for people to go to where books are is one that is likely to be successful. The National Book Council has long been urging people to take a book with them to the beach.

Studies have indicated the Maltese are not avid readers. Efforts by both national and private entities do seem to be leaving some positive results, however. Library book borrowing has increased. Books are bought both from bookshops across the island and from online booksellers.

About 450 books were published in Malta last year, with 130 or so of them submitted for the National Book Prize. One publisher closed shop and others insist they are struggling to make ends meet, though this does not in itself indicate a lack of reading because the Maltese are bilingual readers and what is published in Malta is mostly, and aptly, in Maltese.

It is a fact that spreading the love of reading is an ongoing task and that is why the Books On The Beach project, being tested in beaches where the Malta Tourism Authority has a strong presence, is commendable. The idea is to have more books on other beaches if this venture proves successful. The books available at present are in English but the plan is to have a mixture of languages, once more books are acquired, not least in Maltese.

The concepts fuelling the project are relatively simple and they have proved successful in other countries already. The model being followed here was tried out in France some years ago. The books being lent are not new but reading copies. The aim of the project is very simply to instil the habit of reading in those who relax (not in the sun, but in the shade) on the crowded beaches during the long months of summer. The climate is often touted as being one of the reasons why the Maltese are lazy readers, preferring outdoors activities to sitting and reading. Taking the books outdoors counters that.

The lending-library format being adopted even allows for what might be relatively long-term borrowing, providing the book is returned to the place from which it was borrowed when the reader is done with it. Nothing like continuing to read at home a good book started on the beach! It is always a good thing when politicians move away from actual politics and come up with initiatives that venture to improve the minds of a people. Tourism Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco has very enthusiastically endorsed this project suggested by the NBC. Thus, one can only hope that avid readers, keen to help others take up this wholesome hobby, will send books in to the project, bolstering the amount already contributed by the NBC and the Libraries Department so that there will be a constant supply of one of the most essential of all contributors to the enhancement of minds.

May this be but one of many such initiatives and may it enjoy the support of one and all so it can do as much good as it intends to.

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