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Books on a book shelf

Open Book, a Bookstore You Can Live in and Even Run


A Scottish bookstore lets guests rent an apartment upstairs while having the run of the shop during the day.

The small Scottish town of Wigtown – home to but a thousand residents – is also home to one of the rarest and most charming bookstores in the world. The Open Book isn’t just a bookstore. It’s also a space which can be rented for lodging in exchange for managing the business during your stay. It’s a dream come true for anyone who loves books.

Wigtown, nestled in the green meadows of southern Scotland, is deeply marked by its literary spirit. The town is home to a dozen second-hand bookstores. It’s a number which, considering the number of town residents, is rather a surprising figure. It’s also the perfect place for a bibliophile. The town, set within an imposing natural landscape, is surrounded by forests, and the sea can be sensed close by for its humidity and the smell of the salt.

When guests arrive at The Open Book, the bookstore’s keys are delivered and the operation of the store is the guests’ sole responsibility. Being the manager of the store, owned by a nonprofit organization, one can make decisions such as rearranging the book shelves, re-decorating the space and placing ads on the little sandwich board outside. Rentals for the living space are booked straight through 2021, the furthest in advance that AirBnB will allow. After that, there’s an enormous waiting list, a proof of the success of the store’s unique concept.

The selection at The Open Book ranges from literature to books on ornithology and garden design, and the bookstore’s history is as captivating as the shop itself. In 2008, American filmmaker Jessica Fox arrived in Wigtown with the romantic dream of working in a used book store in Scotland. She met and fell in love with Shaun Bythell, owner of the largest used bookstore in the country; it is called simply Bookshop, and it’s a few blocks from The Open Book. In 2013, when the couple learned that a small second-hand bookstore was about to close, they decided to buy it and organize a group of volunteers to manage it. Although Fox and Bythell are now separated, their project is alive and well.

Who wouldn’t want to tend to a little bookshop in a small town on the Scottish coast? The Open Book is, in many ways, an open book itself. It’s a blank page where visitors write their own stories, and it’s a celebration of the books and their very existence.

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