London underground book project plus rant

Thanks to James Long for this (USA) link: Boing Boing: London Book Project to flood the tube with free books. And Karen of Euro Crime tells me that she found this article in the Australian press, which leads to the London Book Project website in the country of origin (UK).

"Have you seen any books lying around on the tube?" Karen asks me. No, but I have seen plenty of scrumpled and dirty free newspapers. Londoners get one in the morning and three every evening. In the evening, I run a gauntlet at King’s Cross main line, King’s Cross underground, Vauxhall or Waterloo underground and Vauxhall overground or Waterloo main line of aggressive people leaping out at me in each location waving the darn things, each and every day. The rival newspaper "hand outers" (what is the word for people giving things away?) stand next to each other and make you feel like a character from Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds in order to get past them. I have taken to removing my daily (paid for) newspaper or book out of my bag and holding it in front of me to show that I do not require reading material, but it does not make any difference. By the time I get to Kingston (zone 6) the news-flappers have long since given up and one is left in peace.

In the mornings, I am refugee using the (slightly slower and marginally less annoying) overground train service to avoid the horrid underground (overcrowded, smelly, grotty trains and impolite behaviour of many fellow-travellers). In the evenings I use the tube because the train connection times aren’t good — ghastly experience. The book project is the best argument I have yet seen for returning to the tube in the mornings, but as I see it is an official London Underground initiative, I can’t help wishing they’d spend the money on improving the service, even though that probably makes me a Philistine.

Well, that was a bit of a blogger’s rant.  I hope I’ll be calmer next time.

5 thoughts on “London underground book project plus rant

  1. I’ve ranted about the free papers on my site – I resent the mess they leave and the fact that they get in the way of the commuting rush each morning and evening. As a former journalist I also find myself somewhat disturbed by the idea of “giving away” my trade in this way. They represent a significant threat to mainstream newspapers and that’s a great shame.

  2. I found myself stepping into busy streets to avoid the newspaper hander-outers. On the underground, I was startled by the piles of these shite newspapers piled up between the seat backs and the windows.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  3. Good point, Peter (another rant coming) – there are no bins on the underground trains or at train stations because of the “terrorist threat” — hence the trains are full of this ugly waste-paper.
    Yes, Ben, you are right in my opinion — a daily paper is so cheap I don’t understand why people can’t buy them for the sourced news, instead of reading these parasitic rip-offs. (I don’t work for a newspaper but I am a journalist (editor) and I believe in content-producers.)
    Thanks for the (second) thinking blogger award, alternatefish, I am most grateful.

  4. Actually, London trains and train stations are surprisingly neat by comparison with American ones, especially considering the lack of trash receptacles. An entertaining article (not in the Philadelphia ******er, of course) once attempted an olfactory typology of two Northeastern United States subway systems. Philadelphia’s subway stations smell like urine, according to this analysis, while New York’s smell like vomit.
    The Washington, D.C., subway system is an exception. Stations and cars there are kept immaculately, eerily clean, the better to avoid offending official America and its visitors.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

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