Libraries to take an e-book club national in 2021

Kim Thuy's novel Vi is the book being made available through libraries across the country. Photo: Jean Francois

More than 600 public libraries across Canada will be taking part in a first-ever national e-book club when the new year begins. 

The book Canadians will be asked to read from jan. 1 to Jan. 31 is Vi by Kim Thuy.

The participating libraries, representing more than 85 per cent of all public libraries in Canada including the Ottawa Public Library, will offer free, unlimited access to the novel in eBook and eAudiobook formats across different platforms. The book, published in French in 2016 and its English translation in 2018, will be available in both languages – without holds or waitlists – with nothing but a library card.

The libraries are definitely making a point. Mary Chevreau, who is chair of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, said in a media release that access to e-books is more critical than ever because the pandemic has curtailed many people’s ability to acquire print books and afford digital versions of the books they want to read.

“Libraries are struggling to meet public demand for eBooks due to restrictive licensing and disproportionately high prices from major multinational publishers. These barriers make it difficult for Canadians to support and access titles of Canadian authors published through multinational publishers,” said Chevreau.

“People depend on public libraries to stay informed and inspired. Libraries support a vibrant democracy, a strong economy, and thriving communities by ensuring everyone, no matter their income, can access ideas, learning resources and creative works that will help them grow,” she added.

The CULC is trying to work with big publishers to establish fair pricing models for ebooks that “benefit everyone and ensure equitable access to digital content such as e-books and e-audiobooks.

Vi is a novel about the lives and experiences of Vietnamese refugees in Canada. The book was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award in translation and longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The author will participate in a live Q&A on Facebook on Jan. 19 (in English) and Jan. 20 (in French) at 7 p.m., to discuss her work.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.