An Underground Library on the NYC Subway

The MTA and NYC libraries partner to offer free eBooks to commuters, with selections from Recommended Reading

New York City’s commuters are already regailed by showtime, mariachi bands, and the occasional harmonizing quartet, but this summer, riding the subway is about to get even more entertaining. As a way to celebrate free cellular service and WiFi in underground stations, the MTA has partnered with the New York Public Library, Queens Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library in creating a hybrid of the two systems: the Subway Library.

As part of this six week promotion that began last week, the MTA has remade the interior of a 10-car subway train to resemble the New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room. Adorned with “SUBWAY LIBRARY” in a multitude of bright colors on its exterior, the train is running along the E and F lines. However, the promotion is not only available for those who will be lucky enough to get on this train in the coming weeks; by logging into the WiFi of any of the underground subway stations, patrons can get free access to hundreds of e-books and other online reading, all of which has been donated to the New York Public Library by publishers. After the six weeks, readers will need a library membership to access the content and the app.

The selection of e-books includes new fiction and nonfiction releases, classics, thrillers, and young adult books, available to browse on the promotion’s website. Electric Literature’s own Recommended Reading has contributed selections from our archives for the project, making members-only stories by authors such as Jesmyn Ward, Deborah Eisenberg, and Lydia Millet available to all New Yorkers. In addition to the selection of short fiction, novel excerpts are available from Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.

Recommended Reading Archives

In a news release on the MTA’s website, New York Public Library President Tony Marx says, “The New York Public Library’s mission is to make information and knowledge accessible to all, and this exciting partnership with the MTA is certainly right on track…By making thousands of free stories easily available to subway straphangers, we are encouraging reading, learning, and curiosity. We hope people take their love of reading with them once they leave the subway by checking out one of our 92 branches or downloading our e-reader app SimplyE.”

Accommodating for various travel times and readers, the Subway Library shows a dedication to one of NYC commuters’ most popular pastimes.

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