In the midst of a pandemic, it can be extremely tempting to spend hours with your nose inches away from your smartphone screen, scrolling frantically to keep up with every single crumb of catastrophic news and updates. This makes sense: in a time of self-isolation, when our attention spans are perhaps just as fragmented as our tenuous grips on reality, reading books can seem temporarily out of the question. But that’s where audiobooks come in. In a time where libraries are about to become less physically accessible, Penguin Random House announced that it will distribute discounted audiobooks and e-books to the digital collections of libraries so that remote learners and bored citizens alike can have access to more scintillating stories.
Plus, you don’t need an e-reader in order to download digital library loans: you can just use any one of an individual library’s designated apps, whether on a smartphone or a computer, in order to do so.
Additionally, Penguin Random House is permitting a broader spectrum of live-streamed education events to take place with its copyrighted material, as long as educators and booksellers follow a certain amount of stipulations. For example, the publishing house said that “story time or classroom read-aloud videos in which a Penguin Random House book is read aloud and the book is displayed (for picture books) may be created and posted to closed educational platforms such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo and Discovery Education, in order to replicate the read-aloud book experience that would otherwise be available to educators in the classroom.”
As social distancing and quarantining continues, people should expect to see a lot more instances of paywalls being dropped and resources being made more readily available for those who previously didn’t have access to them. Similarly to what Penguin Random House is doing, the online academic library JSTOR recently offered an expanded set of content, which includes more than 20,000 books, to students affected by the consequences of the coronavirus. These JSTOR resources will be freely available through June 30, 2020, but ultimately, maybe the virus will also cause a broader democratization of literary content for the world at large. The more we have access to, the better the world can get.