Those who take the subway in New York City know it can be tedious and crowded at times, and lively and energetic at others. During the long evening-time commute home, the subway can be dreadfully boring; it can also be downright entertaining.

Reading, of course, is a common pastime on the train, with e-readers and physical books in the hands of many straphangers.

libraryA group of students from Miami Ad School has an idea to help pass the time and get readers involved with local libraries, according to a post on Buzzfeed. Underground Library is a proposed project for the NYC subway using ad placements. Commuters would use near-field communication (NFC) to download a 10-page sample of a book.

Once the sample is finished, the user would receive a reminder notice, informing them that they can check out the book at a local branch of the New York Public Library if they’d like to finish reading it.

There have been a lot of questions and debates lately regarding the possibilities of saving bookstores and libraries. Here is one proposed way to get people back into New York City libraries. Right now, this is just an idea, but what do you think? Does Underground Library have a chance?

In a video that introduces the Underground Library to the wider public, its creators explain the reasoning behind their idea:

“Ever since the creation of the Internet, the use of public libraries has been on the decline,” the video begins. “Now, with the invention of smart devices, people can learn about anything, anywhere—well, almost anywhere. Since the Internet still does not work underground, we are going to bring New Yorkers back to the library, by giving them books to read on the subway.”

The Underground Library from Keri Tan on Vimeo.


  1. There is a similar initiative at the Bucharest Metro. In the most active station in the city there are entire walls covered with images of bookshelves, each book spine carrying a QRcode. I haven’t tried it, but according to the printed explanations at least some of the books are offered in their entirety. Too bad I’m always in a hurry and not in any mood to stop and check the available titles.

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