Brazil Gives Out Books That Double as Subway Tickets, Promoting Literacy & Mass Transit at Once

One of the things I miss about liv­ing in a city with a sub­way sys­tem is the myr­i­ad thought­ful design ele­ments that go into man­ag­ing a per­pet­u­al flow of tourists and com­muters. New York’s sub­way map presents us with an icon­ic tan­gle of inter­lock­ing trib­u­taries resem­bling dia­grams of a cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem. The NYC system’s inge­nious­ly sim­ple graph­ic pre­sen­ta­tion of let­tered and num­bered trains, encir­cled in their cor­re­spond­ing col­ors, can be read by most any­one with a rudi­men­ta­ry grasp on the Eng­lish alphabet—from a new lan­guage learn­er to a small child. The Wash­ing­ton, DC sub­way sys­tem, though a much more pro­sa­ic affair over­all, whisks rid­ers through impres­sive­ly cav­ernous, cat­a­comb-like sta­tions, with bru­tal­ist tile and con­crete hon­ey­combs that seem to go on for­ev­er. The squig­gly lines of its col­or-cod­ed map like­wise promise ease of use and leg­i­bil­i­ty.


And then there are the hours of read­ing time grant­ed by a sub­way com­mute, a leisure I’ve relin­quished now that I rely on car and bike. So you can imag­ine my envi­ous delight in learn­ing about Brazil’s Tick­et Books, which are exact­ly what they sound like—books that work as sub­way tick­ets, designed with the min­i­mal­ist care that major tran­sit sys­tems do so well. And what’s more, they’re free: “To cel­e­brate World Book Day last April 23rd,” writes “future-for­ward online resource” PSFK, “[Brazil­lian pub­lish­er] L&PM gave away 10,000 books for free at sub­way sta­tions across São Paulo. Each book came with ten free trips.” Rid­ers could then recharge them and use the books again or pass them on to oth­ers to encour­age more read­ing, an impor­tant pub­lic ser­vice giv­en that Brazil­ians only read two books per year on aver­age.


With sub­way map-inspired cov­ers designed by firm Agên­cia Africa, the books include The Great Gats­by, The Art of War, Ham­let, Mur­der Alley by Agatha Christie, Hun­dred Love Son­nets by Pablo Neru­da, and more (includ­ing com­ic col­lec­tions from Charles Schulz and Garfield’s Jim Davis). Watch an explain­er video at the top of the post and see some love­ly images of the book cov­ers above. The cam­paign won three tro­phies at the Cannes Lions Fes­ti­val in the cat­e­gories “Pro­mo,” “Out­door,” and “Design,” and has proved so pop­u­lar that pub­lish­er L&PM has expand­ed the project to oth­er Brazil­ian cities, giv­ing me yet more rea­son to vis­it Brazil. And if Tick­et Books makes its way to a sub­way-enabled city near me, I may con­sid­er mov­ing.

via PSFK

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Design­er Mas­si­mo Vignel­li Revis­its and Defends His Icon­ic 1972 New York City Sub­way Map

Com­muters Can Down­load Free eBooks of Russ­ian Clas­sics While Rid­ing the Moscow Metro

55 Cov­ers of Vin­tage Phi­los­o­phy, Psy­chol­o­gy & Sci­ence Books Come to Life in a Short Ani­ma­tion

Artist Ani­mates Famous Book Cov­ers in an Ele­gant, Under­stat­ed Way

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • Anon says:

    Why Sao Pao­lo e not São Paulo or even San Paulo?

  • Josh Jones says:

    No rea­son oth­er than igno­rance. I’ve amend­ed to the cor­rect Por­tuguese spelling.

  • anon says:

    Great, now they just have to address the real rea­sons Brazil­ians read 2 books a year on aver­age:
    1. the absurd price of a book (R$15+ for a pock­et edi­tion?!)
    2. work, get home, turn on the nov­ela, then dead­brain news, more nov­ela, sleep, repeat, remem­ber to hide from col­leagues if you read any­thing oth­er than doc­u­ments because it will become either a joke or rea­son for sham­ing!

  • rogerpenna says:

    It’s very com­mon to see this spelling of Sao Pao­lo amongst amer­i­cans… it’s quite curi­ous that they use the ital­ian spelling of Paul, instead of the span­ish spelling Pablo (which many amer­i­cans think Brazil­ians speak) or even the eng­lish one.

    The por­tuguese spelling is the clos­est one to the eng­lish one… just add an O, while the ital­ian has two dif­fer­ent let­ters.

    Well, São Paulo got mil­lions of ital­ian immi­grants back in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, so maybe this spelling came from there and SOMEHOW per­sist­ed to this day in eng­lish, even though most amer­i­cans are not aware of that ital­ian immi­gra­tion to São Paulo?

    Any­way, as any­one can guess, it means just St Paul.

  • rogerpenna says:


    1 — cur­rent­ly, R$15 is about $4 dol­lars.

    2 — I guess the rea­son for the gen­er­al poor num­bers regard­ing read­ing in Brazil is just the wealth of the pop­u­la­tion in gen­er­al. I do not doubt that, tak­ing into account wealth of read­ers, Brazil­ians read about the same as amer­i­can ones for exam­ple. It just hap­pens you have MANY MANY MORE amer­i­cans with mon­ey to buy books.

  • Karen Lausa says:

    Think­ing of giv­ing out books with bus pass­es to those new­ly released from prison. A col­lab­o­ra­tive effort between Words Beyond Bars and The Sec­ond Chance Cen­ter, both in Den­ver, CO. Thanks for the inspi­ra­tion!

  • Cleyton says:

    @rogerpenna , not to turn this into a polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion, but $4 when 70% of the pop­u­la­tion are paid about $500 month­ly seems a bit expen­sive (almost 10% of their mon­ey) for a fam­i­ly who needs to employ that mon­ey on more.vital expens­es.

  • JP says:

    You meant 1%, but I got your point.

  • William Swyter says:

    Why be so self­ish? Just give these poor hard work­ing peo­ple some free books whose copy­rights have run out. Pay for it with adver­tise­ments. How the heck do you think you get to Google for free? Or would you pre­fer that they stay illit­er­ate so they don’t become a threat to you eco­nom­i­cal­ly. The fact of the mat­ter is that nations who read a lot are more peace­ful because they can see through the nation­al­is­tic baloney-because they are hap­pi­er, more informed, calmer, and more con­tent. I’m talk­ing about super-edu­cat­ed coun­tries like the Nether­lands, Ger­many, Scandinavia,and oth­ers. They just sim­ply do not sit around pin­ing over their coun­tries being “less great”. Why? Because they’d rather read, cre­ate, help oth­ers, and have fun. Sure they watch the news but are just too intel­li­gent to start get­ting angry at a pic­ture on a screen. If you’re more con­cerned about mak­ing a buck than help­ing the poor peo­ple of this earth then in the end you’re going to lose out-plain and sim­ple. Divid­ed we fall; unit­ed we stand. That goes for the world as well as the USA. Take a look at Carnegie, Pratt, Jobs, Gates, and oth­ers. They lit­er­al­ly invest­ed in the advance­ment of the race.

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