QR-Access Transforms Commuter Line into a Library

QR-Access Transforms Commuter Line into a Library
Arts & Culture

eBooks refresh minds of Beijing passengers during dull and dreary commutes

Kiran Umapathy
  • 27 january 2015

Passengers on Beijing’s Line 4 subway can now borrow eBooks by scanning QR codes inside train cars.

The M Subway Library is a public welfare program initiated by the Beijing Metro Transportation Railway (MTR) and the National Library to provide qualified literary resources through public transportation. Lee Honglin, China’s deputy director of the National Library told CNTV he thinks the program can help support culture in public spaces and inspire reading and knowledge to become a more prominent part of people’s daily lives:

The cell phone has become such a popular mobile platform where information is quickly transmitted. We aim at promoting some knowledge through this platform. We hope to popularize some traditional culture in a more enchanting and efficient way.

beijing Qr code

In addition to making twelve free titles available each year, the National Library will be organizing themed activities around the books. The theme of the first activity, launched January 12, is “Our Characters.” This activity focuses on the history, inheritance and cultural meaning of 30-plus ethnic characters in China through websites and exhibitions in both the subways and National Library. “We’ll change the themes every two to three months,” Yang Ling, spokeswoman for the MTR says. “If a passenger keeps going along with us, he or she will read over a dozen books a year.”

Beijing’s program takes cues from other cities like New York who have their own versions of underground libraries. In 2013, students of Miami Ad School devised a way for subway riders to read the first 10 pages of popular books using near field communication (NFC) technology. The idea is that readers could get a preview and then discover the nearest library location that carries the title.

New York City also has a truly underground branch neatly tucked inside a subway station.


Riders of Shanghai’s Metro Line 2 can already pick up and drop off library books on special bookshelves inside metro stations. There is no registration required, but borrowers are encouraged to make small charitable donations.

Beijing’s subways see an astounding 10 million passengers daily and the initial response has been positive.

Harry Alverson // Creative Commons // No changes made
Azylber // Creative Commons // No changes made


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