Underground lit: You can now download free ebooks on subway station wifi

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Photo via Flickr user Jens Schott Knudsen.

Subway wifi is a mixed blessing: some people are eager for more of it so they can never lose a minute of joke tweets about Anthony Weiner while on the train; others hate it because it intrudes on the blessed moments of digitally unconnected time when your boss can’t reach you and you can have a short respite from the constant buzzing alerts of your needy phone. Here’s one more for the plus column: starting yesterday, the MTA and Penguin Random House started offering free ebook downloads on phones and tablets to passengers in the subway’s 175 wifi-connected stations through its Subway Reads site. You can now get a free novella, short story or excerpt from a full length book sent to your device, and choose a selection that corresponds to the length of your ride (so like a 30-page selection for your 30-minute ride, etc.). The Times reports it’s a way to draw users into getting used to using the subway wifi, which is expanding to the subway system’s 278 stations within two years. But it won’t last long: the free ebooks will last just eight weeks, which is a perfect time to kick off your fall reading list.

Selections available include Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Ready Player One, Jurassic Park, Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, Teju Cole’s Open City, Colson Whitehead’s new Underground Railroad, Bill Clinton’s My Life, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and many more fiction, nonfiction and short stories (see the full list here). You can sort books by your ride time (FWIW: It appears you can read the books on the website even when you’re not on the subway wifi). Find out which stations have wifi here.

The Times writes that Gov. Cuomo is expediting the expansion of subway wifi before the original 2018 deadline. The 98 stations that still don’t have it are all in Brooklyn. We see how it is, MTA. After the eight weeks are up, you’ll have to go back to using your phone for other online content. Or you could bring a paper book with you, as Ramzy Masri, a 28-year-old graphic designer in Bushwick, told the Times:

“I prefer the tactile experience of reading a book,” he said. “I spend enough time on the screen at work or on my phone. It’s nice to flip through the pages.”