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In the birthplace of the printing press, public bookshelves are popping up across the nation on street corners, city squares and suburban supermarkets. In these free-for-all libraries, people can grab whatever they want to read, and leave behind anything they want for others. There’s no need to register, no due date, and you can take or give as many as you want.

Launched by German municipal councils to encourage citizens to read, and cared for by volunteer groups, these free havens of literature have popped up independently of each other in many cities including Berlin, Hannover and Bonn, and also in suburbs and villages.

The book cases are like small treasure chests with an eclectic mix of anything from fiction to obscure self-help, travel guides or crime novels. They are funded by the municipal councils in collaboration with cultural institutions and businessmen who keep supplying these shelves with books.

The free-for-all street bookshelves, usually financed by publishing houses and commercial bookstores, local volunteer groups and book donations by people ensure that the street shelves remain replete with books despite a huge public turnout. With dozens of new books being added every day, the concept continues to generate interest and attract more and more community members.