Free tram ride-read and the enslaved minds of tax authorities…
Students learn on trams
and the wind leafs through
books on the laps of
poets sitting on the riverbank
and braids their hair
Students learn on trams
There are so many human beings in this world to be loved
Please forgive me this perhaps not very good but personal piece. It’s a bit of a poem I wrote when I was 12 I think, after a school trip to the city of Wrocław, Poland. I was apparently moved seeing so many people who read books in public places — an unusual scene in the industrial city that I lived in, where if I was even able to spot anyone reading on a tram, they were reading at most “Sport News Daily”. Moreover, Wrocław had been hit by an enormous flood in 1997 and a statue commemorating the disaster features a woman saving books from the basement of the university library.
And now the authorities of this city, one of the nicest in Europe in my opinion, promote reading in public places, just to remind people that reading is fashionable. Inhabitants are encouraged to read in parks, on trams and buses, take selfies with books, post them in social media along with some words about the book and hashtag #czytamWroclaw (“I read Wrocław”). This action was officially launched on September 8th, World Literacy Day, and for this occasion passengers of public transport who were reading books didn’t need a ticket for the ride — instead of a fine, the inspectors gave them special CzytamWrocław bookmarks.
It’s a very nice idea (previously implemented e.g. in Cluj, Romania, for European Youth Day) but… the devil is in the details, as we say here in Poland.
Readers of e-Books found out that the promotion applied only to traditional paper books. This is one more example of injustice that eBook readers face in many situations. If you remember, the European Court of Justice has ruled that eBooks are a “digital service” and not goods, and therefore cannot share the same reduced rate of VAT tax that applies to paper books. The EU Court instructed countries using the reduced rate to increase it to full VAT, not hearing the argument that it’s the content, not the carrier, that makes a book. It’s an idea as insane as the idea that food eaten with chopsticks, and not with a knife and fork, is fundamentally different and should be treated differently by law. If you want to join the protest, you can do it on social media with #CeciEstUnLivre and/or #ThatIsABook hashtag.
Some comments about Wrocław City Hall’s oversight of eBook lovers read, “Oh, the eBook is just a convenient ersatz of a real book. It has no charm, no smell of paper, no rustle of pages”. The answer was, “Oh and the book is only an ersatz of a parchment scroll hand-written with ink, which has much more charm than this new-fangled movable type”.