Readers Simultaneously Try Aussie eBook

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Australian author Jacquie Byron admits she would be “less scathing” at a book club these days now that her debut novel is part of a mass reading event.

Her Happy Hour book is featured in an initiative called Together We Read, in which thousands of people download her book for a fortnight to read simultaneously.

“To have this happening in cities all over Australia is truly mind-blowing,” Byron told AAP.

Happy Hour is the story of a woman who decides to live in decadent isolation after the death of her husband, until she finds herself mixed up with a young family living next door.

Participants need a library card and a free downloadable app called Libby to participate.

Byron, who feuded with the Mrs Underhill Book Club in Melbourne for a decade, will host live online discussions about her book until September 20.

The author laughed off the suggestion that the event might not be very good for sales figures and admitted that new releases are expensive when people are struggling with the cost of living.

But all readers really need, she says, is a library card.

“You can go to the library and have all the new releases and even really obscure references for free, that’s a beautiful thing,” Byron said.

Together We Read is in its second year: in 2021, around 14,000 people have read or listened to Scrublands by Chris Hammer.

While e-books and digital audiobooks have become increasingly popular, that hasn’t been to the exclusion of print books, according to Adelaide Librarian Melissa Robertson.

“It’s something that really came into its own with COVID when people couldn’t get their hands on physical books because it’s so easy to access,” she told AAP. .

Those struggling to return books on time will be pleased to know that eBooks and audiobooks are not subject to library fines, as they automatically renew or revert after three weeks.

But many library members don’t realize that even with digital borrowing, there can still be waiting lists.

Library members can borrow Happy Hour in eBook or audiobook form for free, with no holds or waits, from September 6 through September 20.

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