Reading is not a crime

Ray Bradbury is one of my heroes, and my husband and I are handing out Fahrenheit 451 during World Book Night next week. So I was very intrigued by Toronto Public Library’s plans to promote reading via Fahrenheit 451, Toronto’s 2013 “One Book:”

I love several things about this image. How cool to promote a community-wide read as a month-long festival. And what a great integration of theme, artwork, and slogan for a promotion.

But, the coolest thing about Keep Toronto Reading is not that poster. It’s this one:

TorontoARGposter 425x550 Toronto Public Library Enters Alternate Reality (Gaming)

And it’s not really the poster that’s cool (although it is) so much as the thing it is asking Toronto’s residents to do: play KTR 451, an alternate reality game science fiction writer and video game developer Jim Munroe created for the festival. Before you protest that Fahrenheit 451 is all about the dangers a technology-dominated society poses to books and reading, keep in mind that an ARG is not a video game, nor is it conducted entirely online. Munroe explains that an ARG is: “an experience that spans different kinds of media and often involves real world actions. For instance, you might be told via an email to meet your fellow players at Union Station or to watch a video that has clues as to how to solve a mystery.”

Over at BoingBoing, Munroe explains there will be one mission a week for three weeks leading up to a live event. Library Journal notes “players must visit both a physical library branch and the library website, as well as interact with the library on social media. (They can do so from the library computers, ensuring that the digital divide does not prevent some Torontonians from joining the fun.)” The LJ piece goes on to outline the three missions in detail.

Ray Bradbury loved libraries. I imagine he’d love being part of an effort to draw today’s digital natives into their branch libraries. And since one of the missions involves participants gathering evidence of “a time when people loved books unabashedly” — the present — I hope he’d be honored by KTR 451.

World Book Night

April 23 is the anniversary of the death of both Cervantes and Shakespeare in 1616, marked as World Book Day by UNESCO. In 2011, World Book Night was born in the UK and Ireland, with volunteer “givers” handing out books for adults, (kids in those countries get “book tokens” on April 23). Organizers hoped to reach people who might not otherwise pick up a book.

This year World Book Night comes to the U.S. with “tens of thousands” of givers signed up to fan out across their communities handing out twenty copies of a book they love (selected from a list of thirty titles). Authors of these books agreed to give up royalties for the special WBN editions, and a long list of paper and printing companies, book-related professional organizations and publishers collaborated to make the books available free.

In the UK, Ireland, and Germany World Book Night is partnering with BookCrossing so participants can see where the books end up. BookCrossing allows people to label and register a book, “read and release” it for another reader to discover. Typing in the book’s code later will reveal where it went and possibly, who read it.

I’ll be at the reference desk during the festivities, but my husband is handing out one of his favorite books, Stephen King’s The Stand. I look forward to hearing about his experience sharing his love of reading and in particular, this amazing story. I think World Book Night is brilliant, and I hope to be a giver myself in the future.

And World Book Night organizers, if you’re reading this, how about some poetry next year?