When so much of today’s world is digital why are small, rural book towns in Europe, Australia and across the globe flourishing?
This is the question that Griffith University cultural studies lecturer Dr Jane Frank explores in her new book Regenerating Regional Culture – a study of the International Book Town Movement.
“The popularity, significance and expanding functions of book towns magnify their role in facilitating a wide range of connections between writers, event organisers, book collectors, publishers, the media and the book-loving public,’’ she says.
“While urban centres play an important role in contemporary print culture, and more broadly in cultural life, the ways people engage with arts and cultural debates are in a process of transformation. Less conventional spaces such as book towns are emerging as vital hubs of artistic creation, festival culture and consumption.”
From Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland to New Zealand and Australia’s own Clunes in Victoria, Dr Frank explores each community’s book town and their expanding functions.
“Book towns are a phenomenon transforming small country towns into once again sustainable, but very different communities from what they once were,” Dr Frank says.
A book town is a small town or village with a large number of used books and antiquarian book shops.
These shops, as well as literary festivals attract many tourists, not only for book lovers but for those who identify with broader, societal and ethical concerns.
Dr Frank, who has always been fascinated with second-hand and antiquarian books, became aware of the growing emergence of book towns in the UK and Europe in the 1990s when she worked in the UK book trade.
“The idea of being confronted by books en masse in the countryside – as part of communities that had elected to become book-based economies intrigued me,’’ she says.
“I was interested in how they had developed the capacity to draw thousands of visitors to them, many from metropolitan centres, and from interstate/overseas to their events, and to holiday.”
“In many cases, these tiny communities are now centres for culture and ideas. Book towns both rely on, and contribute to, the global increase in cultural tourism.
Regenerating Regional Culture – a study of the International Book Town Movement will be launched at the State Library of Queensland on Saturday, April 21.