Reading is getting rarer in Italy. Youth between 12 and 16 years of age buy very few books. They prefer to spend their allowances on beer and cigarettes. But, fortunately, there are still some people who are promoting the culture of books like Giacomo Sbalchiero, 35 from Padua, who has managed to unite his passion for social networks with that of reading by inventing an online platform to catalog and exchange books and ideas though texts. It is calledFred and is a digital library where opinions can also be shared, and books can be found without leaving one’s home. By registering one can discover who, within a short distance from one’s own house, has a book to share, exchange. It is a solution for students who spend a lot of time in front of personal computers and smartphones.
The birth of Fred
The idea came about in 2000 in Sbalchiero, when Giacomo had the opportunity to buy a collection of about 2,500 books at an auction. With the aide of a software program he soon started cataloging his collection book by book with the intention of then being able to lend them to his friends. But the idea became contagious and others decided to share their book collections as well.
What are the advantages?
Though it is along the same lines as Anobii, the most famous online book community that has now classified about 40 million volumes, Fred has the advantage of being a “place” where human relations can also be developed. You can discover that just 19 kilometers from your house Daniele has shared his book “La leggenda del santo bevitore”. A zero kilometer exchange, the most ethical that exists, and the chance to find the person closest to you with the books you’d like to exchange.
The digital library
It is an initiative that matches well with the sale of used books online. In the past, hours were spent at the used bookstore Libraccio in Milan or at used bookstalls; today, the majority of young Italians look for books online at Libridea, Bakeca.itor Libraccio. During this period before school begins do-it-yourself marketshave been created between hundreds of students who don’t want to, or can’t, spend money on new books and are sharing each other’s collections in order to find the texts they need at no cost.
…and bookstalls at Skuola.net
For those who still want to browse bookstalls but don’t know where to find them the Skuola.net community can help. There is a list of libraries and markets for used books on the website: “Savings from 30 to 70% can be found”, explains the site. And a forum on the same site also allows students to get in contact with anyone throughout Italy in order to exchange books.
This is an example of how innovation and tradition can go hand-in-hand in an age in which creative solutions are necessary to confront the economic difficulties of families and students dealing with the high costs of schoolbooks each academic year.