SNCF E-Book Service Offers Commuters an Onboard 100,000 Digital Library

France’s state-owned national train operator is rolling out a digital book reading application for its TER and Intercity network offering train commuters a vast, mainly free, reading library to download and read on handheld devices.

A TER service from Carcassone to Quillan, operated by SNCF (Credit Wikipedia Chris0693)

A TER service from Carcassone to Quillan, operated by SNCF (Credit Wikipedia Chris0693)

This follows its successful earlier pilot in May on two of the SNCF operator regional services as we reported here. The TER or regional express train service in the Languedoc-Roussillon region was first to turn its carriages into travelling libraries offering a selection of 60 free digital titles displayed on the back of train seats and accessible by activating a QR flash code.

The 100,000 novels in the SNCF E-BOOK library suggests that the train operator is about to become a significant ally of France’s burgeoning digital book business reports BFM Business .

Commuters — 95% of whom already carry and use a tablet or smartphone during their journey SNCF research shows — will be able to travel a little lighter thanks to access to e-novel downloads to help them pass their journey time, instead of packing weightier tomes into their bags.

The SNCF E-BOOK library is provided via an application for smart phones, tablet and mobile and can be downloaded before taking the train or once onboard. The free service offers access to 5,000 royalty-free great French literary classics and extracts from all the other books in the collection. Best selling newly released novels will not be available for obvious commercial reasons and so as not to impact on paper versions of works released via high street book sellers , already threatened by Amazon and other online giants.

The premium subscription service is free for the first 45 days but costs 9.90 euros a month thereafter and allows access to the full 100,000 book library. Customers may cancel or suspend their subscription but still have access to the free classics books and excerpts.

SNCF will also offer a book of the month selection, and add new titles each month. A special offer each month will be linked to a newsworthy event in the literary world. A selection of 10 books of national or regional interest will be tailored to various regions where commuters catch their trains.

For now, the library will comprise mostly royalty free classics and practical books (such as leisure and psychology).

“We decided to extend the service and offer a more ambitious selection following two successful pilot projects out in the Lorraine and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. We found passengers chose books that required a little less than an hour of reading, which corresponds to their average travel time on regional lines”, Barbara Genertine, Project Manager for SNCF E-BOOK said.

More than one in three travellers reportedly took to using the service in the first month it was piloted and with research showing a 93% customer satisfaction rate, SNCF clearly believes it is onto a service winner.

Story: Ken Pottinger
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