Book Towns: Where Reading is the Reason to Live
Some small towns in the rural reaches that lost their former industries have reimagined themselves as "book towns." By filling empty storefronts with used and antiquarian bookshops, and hosting literary festivals, the goal is to attract new visitors in the form of bibliophiles.
The book towns are officially united through the International Organisation of Book Towns. The movement started in 1961 with Richard Booth in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, and now includes towns across Europe and in Malaysia, Korea, and Australia. However, the drive for a sustainable tourism development program in these rural areas has hit some hurdles in recent years with the consolidation of the used book trade online and rise of the e-book. As Adrian Turpin, director of the literary festival in Wigtown, Scotland’s book town, told the BBC in 2012:
"There was a time when second-hand book sellers in book towns were first of all selling books and secondly selling the experience of browsing. Now it is almost the other way around."
Despite these recent changes in the literary landscape, the book towns thrive on.