The Dutch love to read, and with the excellent public transport infrastructure they have in the Netherlands, its little wonder. What better way to while away a train journey than with a book? And readers who travelled last weekend during Boekenweek (Book Week) got to travel for free, so long as they were reading.
Every year since 1932 the Netherlands has encouraged reading with Boekenweek, a celebration of literature marked with literary festivals, book signings and literary events across the country.
Traditionally, a well known Dutch author is given the chance to write a special novel, the Boekenweekgeschenk (book week gift), which is given out free to people who buy books during the festival or sign up to a library.
This year the special book, this year the novel Jas Van Belofte by celebrated Dutch author Jan Siebelink could also be used as currency and used instead of a rail ticket on every train in the whole of the Netherlands last Sunday to kick off Beokenweek. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch state railway company has long been a sponsor of the week and even organises book readers and signings by top authors on its trains.
This year the book week gift was given out by bookshops to anyone who spent €12.50 on Dutch language books. Nederlandse Spoorwegen has been running the free travel promotion for eighteen years now stating that “NS has a warm heart for reading, because reading is one of the favourite ways to spend time on the train.”
We can’t disagree with that! What a fantastic initiative. The rest of the world could take heed, especially with falling literacy rates.