Saturday, October 18, 2008


A Book Town, Eh?

From today's Daily Gleaner of New Brunswick, word of a Canadian book town:

SIDNEY, B.C. - Stroll down Beacon Street, Sidney's main drag, and it won't take long to realize this quaint Vancouver Island town is chock-a-block with bookstores - 11 within a five-block area, with number 12 due to open next month....

"It wasn't our idea," says the U.K.-born Clive [Tanner], 74, a one-time B.C. Liberal provincial politician.

He says it was his Canadian-born wife's fondness for visiting Britain that resulted in their discovery of the original "Booktown" in Hay-on-Wye, a tiny village that straddles the border between Wales and England. An eccentric by the name of Richard Booth, often called the "King of Hay," turned the once-sleepy backwater of 1,100 people into a home to roughly 40 bookshops and the largest annual literary festival in the English-speaking world.

The Tanners have met Booth on several occasions.

"He's as nutty as a fruit cake, quite honestly," says Clive, who some might consider a wee bit "out-of-round" himself.

"But the idea he had was that more bookstores invite more people. We thought it was a hell of a good idea."

It's worth pointing out that Sidney may avoid the the problems that I pegged as dooming Archer City and other would-be book towns.

From that Stubble post in 2005:
If I were to guess, I'd say that that if a Hay-scale book town (I know, I know, Nevada City is trying) ever arises in the US, it will be in a neglected old mill town -- you need some good old 19th-century brick commercial buildings sitting about -- with a densely built walkable downtown. It will be within a hour's drive from a city with an airport... preferably a city served by Jet Blue or Southwest, since bookworms like me are cheapskates... oh, and within reach of one of the rail or bus corridors, since a lot of us are crap drivers. And it wouldn't hurt to have some bucolic rural landscape outside of town.
Sidney's a harbor town -- so it probably has a charming and walkable center with good storage space -- and it's just a half-hour from Victoria.

Sounds like it might do quite nicely.

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