The Book Towns in Iceland
The purpose of this project, The Book Town, is to form a local cluster of collaboration between partners pertaining to books, culture and tourism. Spearheading the project in its early days are Sunnlenska bókakaffið (South Book Café) and Konubókastofan in Eyrarbakki (Womens Book Lounge in Eyrarbakki) with backing from various other regions, libraries, art groups in addition to numerous local partners in the fields of tourism, education and culture.
To name a few: Sveitarfélagið Árborg, Sveitarfélagið Ölfus, Hveragerðisbær, Markaðsskrifstofa Suðurlands, Flóahreppur, Bókasafn Árborgar, Listvinafélag Hveragerðis
The key role for Book Towns the world over has been to accommodate used books that the owners want to part with, be it through estate bequest, discontinued company libraries or simply from regular homes. The groundwork is laid for marketing the area as a particularly literary region by giving people the opportunity to donate their books to the project. Such an image is both positive and invaluable for creating employment.
Advantages of South Iceland
Not only is South Iceland a region outside of the capital city area but it has also benefited from a surge in resident growth. When it comes to making a book town, the region’s advantages are many.
The region’s core community is within an hour's driving distance of the country’s largest market economy. A book town would create a recreational activity for a large target audience of domestic as well as foreign book enthusiasts.
A used bookstore would have great potential where there is cheap housing. The Book Town projects in Great Britain, Norway and elsewhere have utilized inexpensive industrial and commercial housing in small towns for the storing of “orphaned” books. Housing facilities are fairly cheap in the region and suits well for this purpose.
South Iceland has a very rich literary heritage. The nation’s first educational institutions were in Haukadal, Oddi and Skálholt. Also, some of the nation’s foremost authors and poets lived on the same street in Hveragerði, known as the country’s first and most famous writer’s colony, around the time of the second Word War.
Numerous enterprises in the region already illustrate the area’s literary strengths. A non-exhaustive list of these enterprises such as:
Womens Book Lounge in Eyrarbakki
The South Book Café (Sunnlenska bókakaffið) which runs a bookstore, online bookshop, antique bookstore and book publishing.
Many esteemed libraries
Regional arts and culture council
Fjölheimar in Selfoss
Educational institution, for instance F.su., ML, Fræðslunet etc.
Distinguished private libraries
Frásagnarakademía in Hveragerði
The Artists’ Colony in Hveragerði
The only Book towns in Iceland
This is the first and only group to try and establish and Icelandic IOB town. From our conversations with a representative of the International Organization of Book Towns it was made clear that a the term Book Town does not have to be contained to a single urban town, “Bokbyen ved Skagerak” being a good example of that, as it was initially meant to cover a region in three countries, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Second hand bookstores are important to a book loving nation. Ever since about the end of the second World War there have been about one thousand Icelandic books published every year. New books are generally only available for a few years after publication, republication is not common due to the size of the country. Most Icelandic books are therefore only available through antique bookstores. Second Hand bookstores are the hallmark of Book Towns the world over. Many of these Book Towns have several antique bookstores side by side. Thus creating the image that this is the area to find a certain old book, making it a dream spot to book enthusiasts.
Book Towns and Tourism
Book Towns all over the world have experienced a surge in tourism, creating jobs in service and recreation industries. These towns have many bookstores that are business competitors but they also support each other. Hveragerði and Selfoss receive an enormous amount of tourist traffic but only a small part of that traffic seeks out the local businesses. Considering the amount of tourist traffic, the business possibilities are endless for these towns, not to mention if the number of tourists grow even more.
Iceland has a long history as “island of the sagas” with a book-loving nation. No country can come close to Iceland’s book publishing record per capita. This image gives support and strengthens possibilities for active tourism service aimed at both foreign and domestic guests. The project combines environmentally friendly tourism services with ecological recycling by selling used books.
Iceland was visited by almost 1 million tourists in the year 2014 and there will be even more of them this year. A large number of those people is estimated to pass through South Iceland for both long and short trips. The possibilities for an increase in service and recreation for those visitors are great. Domestically, there has also been a growing demand for local tourism services.
The Project will therefore not only create employment but also contribute important cultural efforts for the Icelandic nation and the Icelandic language.
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