Independent bookshop The Book Hive has partnered with a local coffee shop and launched a new weekly "detox reading" event called Page Against the Machine designed to encourage more customers to pick up a book.
The Norwich-based shop is partnering with local coffee shop Little Red Roaster on a scheme called 'The Well Read Roaster', which will see the shop provide book recommendations on packets of the company's coffee. It will also offer free samples of the coffee in the bookshop on Saturdays.
Joe Hedinger, bookseller at The Book Hive, said: "As the only independent bookshop selling new books in Norwich - England’s Unesco City of Literature, and a City of Stories - we feel it is really important to spread the joy and benefits of reading. So we got our heads together to think about how and when people come across new books, or when both regular readers and more casual readers might like to receive a recommendation. The concept of using the labels as a voucher - giving 20% off the recommended book - just felt like a sensible way of giving people that final nudge to pay us a visit."
Hedinger added that the shop “absolutely” feels it is important to support and partner with local businesses. He said: “Small enterprises having to work together to support and survive against the competition," he said. "In Norwich at least, this kind of thing feels very positive - like small, nimble, creative businesses coming together to be innovative and exciting in a way that only they can, to offer something only they can.”
So far, the shop has recommended a “big” range of books, spanning short stories, crime, non-fiction, small-press and translated fiction including Madame Zero by Sarah Hall (Faber), Whatever Happened To Harold Absalon? by Simon Okotie (Salt), The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland), Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan (Pushkin) and Viking Economics by George Lakey (Melville House Press).
Hedinger said the initiative has already increased footfall, just a few weeks after its began. “We’ve already had people popping to the shop to use their label-vouchers", he said. "We’re expecting this to increase after about a month, when people get to the bottom of their bags of coffee! It’s also worth saying that the free coffee on Saturday has certainly led to busy weekends, with people lingering in the shop for longer or starting to chat and ask for recommendations while they sip away. The idea has really done well on social media - across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we’ve had tonnes of positive reactions.”
The shop has also created a mindful reading event named Page Against the Machine which has seen it team up with bookmark-zine Dog-Ear and design company Back to Front, to create post-work quiet reading sessions designed to “fight back against the stress of modern life and boost well-being”. Hoping the event will give locals the space and time to “find solace in books”, the shop will be open for later on Wednesday evenings to provide readers with comfy seats, glasses of wine, cups of tea, and “no distractions”.
Hedinger along with shop owner Henry Layte, decided to create the event after reading research from The Reading Agency, which revealed that 59% of people say they turn to a book in times of stress, anxiety, or illness, and that 48% say books help them navigate the ups and downs of life and relationships. The report also revealed that 67% of people want to read more, but 48% say they are too busy, or have too much of a hectic lifestyle.
"That was our insight: sadly, the reason people want to read… is the reason they can’t read", Hedinger said. "We call it ‘detox reading’ as we genuinely believe it has well-being benefits. It is a time away from devices and distractions, so will encourage peace, calm and mindfulness. And more generally, it's proven that reading for pleasure is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background, and that it can result in higher levels of self-esteem and improve social interaction."
The first Page Against The Machine event was held on Wednesday 11th October and has started off as a “great success”, with 15 people in attendance.
Hedinger said: "It was lovely to chat and share book tips before and after the quiet reading (and be able to sell a couple of books). Within 24 hours, we’ve already had ‘thank yous’ posted on our Facebook event page, and more people committing to coming regularly. If all goes well, we might well invest in beanbags or even hammocks…”
Discussing the rise in reading as meditation, and in the publishing of mindfulness focused titles, he added: "I’ve spoken to lots of customers about how all of this can lead to a life of interruption and distraction. Don’t get us wrong - technology isn’t evil, and it can be a fantastic, wonderful, enriching thing (it’s vital for our work as booksellers, of course) - but the design of many services can also drain your agency and make you feel far less empowered."