Every country needs a book city
In the South Korean town of Paju, every business, every person, and even every bus, is dedicated to one thing: books. We get it. We think that every country needs a book city.
Paju Bookcity, as the town is known, was originally dreamt up in 1989 by a group of publishers who envisioned a town that had books at its heart.
In 2001, construction commenced on the village that was designed to place common good above ruthless self-interest, and to be architecturally harmonious with the surrounding environment.
Now Paju is home to approximately 200 publishing houses, including some of the country’s most well known companies, Mun Hak Dong Ne and Chang Bi.
Since the town’s inception, the South Korean government has been actively supportive of the venture, and the land upon which Paju is built is owned by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Approximately 10,000 people are employed in Paju, representing all sides of the book business in 150 different buildings in three different districts: publishing, printing, and support.
Paju is also home to its very own annual festival, or booksori, which attracts around 450, 000 visitors over a 9 day period.
And it even has its own awards that it presents to Asian professionals who they see as having dedicated their careers to the development and promotion of Asian culture.
In short, Paju Bookcity is a book lover’s paradise!
I can imagine I’m not alone in wishing that places like this existed in the Western World.
Picture this: streets lined with so many quaint book cafes, it would take a year to visit them all.
A town (or if you have a lively imagination like me, a city) where all corners of the publishing industry would come together as one big, happy family.
You’d have your traditional publishers, the likes of Macmillan, Harper and Collins, Penguin Random House, and co. all lined up in a resplendent row of marble floors and glass walls.
You’d have a boulevard of comfy and inviting waiting rooms representing the small to medium publishers, and a quirky, colourful nook for the publishing startups.
In another area you would find the digital publishers, the glow of computer screens and the sound of clicking keys escaping through cracks in the walls and underneath doors.
There would be a mix of self-published and traditional-published authors, and places for them to workshop ideas, bounce off each other’s creativity, and conduct live readings and interviews.
Authors, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, and artists all converging on the one space to do what they do best – create books.
Even though the publishing industry in South Korea is vastly different to the one in Australia, I am confident that an Australian book festival in an Australian bookcity, with Australian awards, would be a massive hit.
Let me know if you’re also waiting with bated breath for a town built on the love of books to pop up near you!