Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature (the very first in the world to receive the accolade in 2004) and in between going to events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, I visited a few of the literary attractions and bookshops that the city has to offer.
The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has its main base in Edinburgh’s Old Town on George IV Bridge and is home to some 24 million printed items including one of the world’s largest collections of maps. As it is a research library, the reading rooms can only be accessed if you are a member but there are temporary exhibitions for visitors including displays of flyers and programmes from the Edinburgh Festival which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The main exhibition running at the moment is ‘Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley’ which documents the Endurance expedition and rescue in 1914-16 and includes diaries, photographs, letters and other items from various archives. Admission is free and it’s well worth a look if you’re passing by. Continue reading
As well as hosting one of the biggest literary festivals in the country, Hay-on-Wye is the official book town of Wales and home to over twenty bookshops. It was somewhat inevitable that I would end up visiting a few and making some purchases during my time at the festival last month…
Hay Cinema Bookshop
One of the first bookshops I visited was the Hay Cinema Bookshop with Francis Edwards Antiquarian Books on the top floor. I made three more visits during the week and still feel like I barely scratched the surface of this enormous shop which has been based in a converted cinema since 1965. It’s a bit like Baggins Book Bazaar – another very large second-hand bookshop in Rochester, Kent – but with a much wider range of fiction including a large amount of brand new remainder stock. I bought seven books from the shop which has an excellent range of translated fiction and literary biographies. Continue reading
This week is Independent Booksellers Week. An interesting article in The Guardian yesterday outlined five reasons to support your local indie bookshop. In order from worst to best, they are:
5) To maintain property prices in your area: Maybe this is because I am neither a Daily Mail reader nor a property owner, but this seems like a very strange reason to support an indie bookshop. I suppose there is a tenuous link in that independent shops are generally found in nice places to live. However, it isn’t really at the top of my list of priorities…
Yes, those three words always grab my attention too. Books for Free is an initiative set up by Healthy Planet which redistributes unwanted books which would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Centres have been popping up all over the UK since it was launched in 2010 and it has been a big success. It is primarily an environmental cause aimed at promoting recycling but also plays an important role in bringing communities together and encouraging more people to read and share books.
I read an interesting article in The Guardian today in which Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories series, claims that libraries ‘have had their day’ and that the concept behind them, namely offering the impoverished access to books, no longer applies in an era of compulsory education. I have a feeling his views are only shared by a tiny minority of people. Continue reading
In spite of the difficulties facing the publishing industry, there are still a lot of bookshops in London which are managing to survive. Here are five I deem to be among the Most Awesome.
The flagship store on Charing Cross Road is a haven for book-lovers everywhere. It is vast yet not at all intimidating. Its specialisms include the Grant & Cutler foreign language department and the sheet music section on the top floor. Ray’s Jazz Cafe is also very cool. Continue reading
Here’s one way of preventing Amazon’s hegemony over book sales: in France, book prices are fixed by law so they cost the same amount whether you buy them online, in a chain shop like Fnac or in a small independent bookshop. When I was living in Paris during my year abroad, the stingy student side of me was a bit miffed that it was impossible to get new books at a discount. On the other hand, it means that there are still a lot of independent bookshops which are managing to stay open (about 400 in Paris) and that can only be a good thing. Continue reading