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Anyone who has ever been stuck on a sweltering subway platform with no reception knows you can only play Candy Crush for so long. In Shanghai, at least, there's a new library system along a metro line that lends books to commuters. 

Shanghai's metro line 2 teamed up with the Aizhi bookstore and, an online education service, to create a simple borrowing program with no library cards and no fees. Riders pick up a book at one stop and, hopefully, return it before they get off the subway. Borrowers are encouraged to give a small donation — one yuan, or about 16 cents — if they're so inclined.

Reports the Los Angeles Times:

Special bookshelves are installed at the metro stations, containing rows books for the taking. There's no registration necessary, and no fee; readers are simply encouraged to make a small charitable donation when taking a book.

Many of the books came from donations from a program launched last year that also funneled donated books to underfunded schools.

So far, the subway library been a hit, and lines have been forming during rush hour. "Now you can read a real book, rather than staring at the cellphone through the metro ride," said Zou Shuxian, an Aizhi bookstore spokesperson, told the China Daily.

And considering literature's falling popularity in China, this could be more than just a diversion for commuters, but, rather, a program to get people reading more. As China Daily reported earlier this year, The Chinese Academy of Press and Publication found that Chinese people read 4.3 books on average in 2012, compared to 8.4 books read by French and Japanese people and seven books read by Americans. When Americans are reading more books than you, it's probably time to shake things up. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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