“The Town of Books” : Don’t Even Ask About WiFi


The Kingdom of Hay, in Wales, is more than just a little unique.  The entire “kingdom” is comprised of just 1,500 people but it boasts a whopping thirty second hand book stores… that’s one bookstore for every fifty people! Since 1960, the town has accepted used and discarded books and proudly calls itself  “The Town of Books.”  Kindles and their ilk, as you can see above, are not welcome.

The small hamlet lies on the border between England and Wales. Every year, to celebrate its love of books, Hay-on-Wye (its official name) hosts a literary festival dubbed “The Woodstock of the Mind.”

The town began its transformation to  a book haven in the mid-1960s  when one of its residents, Richard Booth, decided to start buying  books from libraries that were closing, both in the United States and Europe, and shipping them back to Hay-on-Wye. It didn’t take long to amass thousands of used books. Soon, the town had a “booming secondhand book scene.”

In 1988, the town hosted its first festival. In the intervening twenty-five years, the festival has grown in size and regularly attracts names not only in literature but also from science, and, gasp! technology, although those technophiles had better beware. (This year, Google’s Eric Schmidt was in attendance.) The town’s “Prince”  Derek Fitz-Pitt Booth Addyman warns, “People are smuggling e-readers into Hay-on-Wye, but I should make them aware that we are training poodle sniffer dogs to find them.” Probably a joke but…

If you are getting ready to pack your bags for this year’s ten day festival, better hold on. Unfortunately, the festival has just concluded. 2014’s Hay Festival runs from May 22 – June 1, 2014.