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A Korean e-book startup is allowing coronavirus patients to read books for free

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Reading before the days of social isolation.
  • Isabella Steger
By Isabella Steger

Asia deputy editor

Coronavirus patients and those under home quarantine in South Korea now have a new way of passing time after an e-book startup said it would open up its library to those affected for free.

Millie’s Library, an e-book subscription service that launched in 2017, will allow free access to its library of 50,000 titles for two months, according to the Korea Herald newspaper. It’s also working with Korea’s interior ministry to provide access to quarantined residents through a government app that tracks people who have been ordered to stay at home.

Korea has over 7,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and almost 20,000 people are under quarantine.

In a statement (link in Korean) on its website, Millie’s said that its decision to allow free access to its library was a way of “giving back to society.” It said its workers have been working remotely since Feb. 26 and practicing “social distancing,” in line with a government directive.

A normal subscription to Millie’s costs about $8 a month. One of the platform’s biggest recent hits was an exclusive Korean language audiobook of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens read by a popular Korean actor, according to Korean newswire Yonhap.

Among the best-sellers (link in Korean) in March and trending titles on social media (link in Korean) listed on Millie’s Library are novels by German crime writer Nele Neuhaus, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which has been wildly popular in Korea. Epidemic-themed titles are also popular on the platform, such as Albert Camus’ The Plague, Jose Saramago’s Blindness, and Virus Shock, a 2016 Korean non-fiction book on the history of epidemics.

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