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Book Box Vietnam: Encouraging People to Spread and Share the Written Word

Inspired by the Little Free Library project, a group of young Saigon residents has launched a book exchange project called Book Box – placing little boxes of free books in public places.

Book Box has scattered several boxes in public cafés where anyone can pick up a book and replace it with another. The take-and-give model means that each location features a diverse set of books, with each becoming a unique mini library.

Book Box aims to strengthen Vietnam’s reading culture and to encourage sharing and respect of public property.

Phuong Huyen, an editor of Elle magazine and founder of Book Box Vietnam , believes that books are something that should be shared and isn’t concerned about a lack of public etiquette.

“Doubt and disbelief prevent us from doing something good. Some are afraid that leaving free books in public may cause them to be stolen. First, we must believe and then we can see whether or not public behavior is sufficient to carry out such projects,” said Huyen.

It is noticeable that most Vietnamese barely read books, something that could cause those little book boxes to become deserted. However, in spite of being a recently launched effort, the project is has been warmly welcomed by students (young and old) and parents who expect it to thrive.

“A friend of mine gave me VND200,000 and said that instead of spending money on coffee, she would donate it to fund a book box,” shared Huyen when asked about the most memorable comments since Book Box’s establishment.

“It is such a brilliant idea that teaches us how to share and give away what we highly value,” commented Loan Vo on Book Box’s Facebook page.

A student in Hoa Lac, Hanoi also said that applying this idea to universities would help promote reading among students.

It has yet to change the poor reading culture in Vietnam, but first, it must attract people’s attention to books, which in turn encourages reading and sharing.  “A book can be mediocre to one but it could also be a “I have been looking for this” to another,” said Linh Nguyen, a Book Box representative.

One may want to and pass on their favorite book to another, helping to share the value of good literature. “A brilliant thing about this project is that it is made for no particular person, but everyone can benefit from it,” expressed Nguyen.

As people strive to be accepted by the majority – one that acts selflessly for the common good - they in turn encourage others to do similarly, or prevents some from doing otherwise since they might feel alienated. The hope is that this project helps to create a nurturing community and enhances the reading culture in Vietnam.

Book Box is planning to install boxes in Vietnam’s poorer regions and points out that anyone can build their own boxes as a way to create an ever-expanding network of readers and book lovers.

“A simple message which Book Box always wants to send out is - read more and share more. That way you can bring joy and knowledge not only to yourself but everyone else,’’ Nguyen added.

Stop by one of these locations to share your favorite books and you may find a book you have never come across in a bookstore.


You can find Book Boxes in the following locations:

Café Air Lounge - 147 Tôn Dật Diên, Ward Tân Phong, D.7

Café Nhà Kho - 166/20 Lý Thái Tổ, D.3

Café Monologues - 93B Võ Văn Tần, D.3  


[Photos via Book Box]

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