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More libraries in Tokyo offering e-books, audiobooks amid stay-home calls

The e-book service page of the Bunkyo City Library is seen. (Photo courtesy of Bunkyo City Library)

TOKYO -- To get more people enjoying reading without having to actually go to the library during the coronavirus pandemic, the capital's Bunkyo Ward is offering services enabling access to e-books and professional audiobooks; increasing numbers of libraries in Tokyo are offering similar services to praise from users.

    Bunkyo Ward started the e-book and audiobook service in January. The catalysts were the reading barrier-free act's 2019 enforcement, which aims to improve the reading environment for the visually impaired, and pandemic-driven demand for "non-visiting, non-contact" services.

    The service is not limited to ward residents; commuters to the ward can also use it. To do so, all you have to do is search for the e-book or audiobook you wish to borrow on the library's website, and enter the ID and password you registered when getting your library card.

    About 1,500 e-books were available as of April, and the selection is expected to increase. The library also has about 3,100 audiobooks read by professional voice actors and narrators, and they have no return date or limit on the number of items you can borrow.

    The children's page on the Bunkyo City Library website is seen. (Photo courtesy of Bunkyo City Library)

    A representative of the Masago Central Library said, "We hope people can casually enjoy reading at home, as the coronavirus pandemic may continue to restrict people from going out."

    More libraries in Tokyo are making e-books and audiobooks available, including in municipalities such as Chiyoda, Toshima, Shibuya and Setagaya wards where e-books are available, and in the suburban city of Hachioji which leads the way in providing audiobook services.

    Bunkyo Ward has also started using illustrations from Noboru Baba's "11 Piki no Neko" series of picture books published by Koguma Publishing Co. on the children's page of its library website. The series is reportedly checked out frequently, and this is the first time in Japan that the series' illustrations have been used on a library website.

    (Japanese original by Haruka Kobayashi, Tokyo Bureau)

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