The IOBT was founded in Wales in the UK to be a model of rural development and tourism.
The residents of book towns make their town a destination for all things book-related through selling, reading, writing, printing, illustrating and publishing them.
In return, the town becomes a tourism destination.
Take other book towns’ transformations, says the chairman of Creative Featherston, Lincoln Gould. Gould is also the chief executive of Booksellers New Zealand.
He says Wigtown in Scotland started out with just one bookshop in town, and now has 15 bookshops or shops related to books.
Clunes in Australia (pictured above) was a rundown rural town that had “seen better days,” Gould says, but after becoming a book town, the town now sees 15,000 to 20,000 people attend its yearly festival.
“That’s the idea of a book town,” Gould says.
“You take a small, down-at-heel village or town which has historic connections and you turn those advantages into an opportunity for economic revival around the artefact of the book.”
Featherston currently only has one second-hand bookshop, but Gould wants that number to grow significantly.
The town has the historic chops needed to be one of the book towns, which usually develop in areas with historic interest or scenic beauty.
It is rich in history, as it was home to a major military training camp in WWI. The camp later became a prisoner-of-war camp in WWII.
It also has the Fell Engine Museum, which has the only Fell engine in the world, leftover from the days of the Rimutaka Incline Railway.
“We have a town of historic interest within a large area of scenic beauty,” Gould says.
“Now we want to establish Featherston as a centre where people will visit to browse and buy books, engage with authors, bookbinders, restorers and other book-related craftspeople.”
To progress to the next stage of book town membership, Featherston needs to establish itself as a community that’s passionate about books.
A book town festival has been planned for October 17 and 18 to create the opportunity for other bookshops to open in Featherston, as well as artisan workshops, like bookbinding.
Invitations have been sent to second-hand and antiquarian bookshops and authors around New Zealand to display their goods and take part in the festival.
Booksellers that are on board already for the event include For the Love of Books, Hedleys, Quilters and Arty Bees.
There will also be bookbinding workshops, readings at the Featherston Library and theatre performances at the event.
Gould says it’ll be an economic development opportunity for the town if more second-hand bookshops and artisan workshops are established.
“We want to become New Zealand’s book town in the same way Clunes and Wigtown have become major booktowns in their countries,” he says.
There are 17 other book towns worldwide, including booktowns in Korea, Finland and Italy.
Check out Finland’s cool little book town below: