The building located at 2 High Street in Wigtown, Scotland had been a bookshop for as long as anyone can remember. So when the owners decided to put the property on the market, it seemed as though a piece of history was going to be lost forever.
And since Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town, the thought of losing the shop devastated the likes of many — especially those working for the Wigtown Festival Company, the town’s nonprofit literature development organization.
As the prospect of tragedy loomed on the horizon, one of the company’s most loyal supporters decided to invest in the property. They allowed the company to lease the building for 12 months and offer creative individuals the opportunity of a lifetime: to run the bookshop while developing their own creative practice for two weeks at a time.
When this initial residency project drew to a close in 2014, a local author suggested that the idea be pushed even further — that the bookshop and the apartment located above it be combined into an Airbnb listing as the first bookshop holiday experience in the world. It was a way to continue to support the Book Town initiative, while also inviting people from around the globe to take part in its preservation.
Thus, the Open Book project was founded the following year and began taking bookings.
The trustees of the Festival Company, who were to be responsible for overseeing the shop, were a bit wary. They just didn’t think something like this could work. Namely, they didn’t believe that people would travel all the way to Wigtown to voluntarily run a small, second-hand bookshop, and pay to do so.
But they were wrong — the response from bookworms and travelers was more than enthusiastic, and reservations flooded their Airbnb listing almost immediately.
What’s more, they haven’t let up since. In fact, the Open Book is booked solid until March 2021, and they have a waiting list of potential guests ready to jump on any last-minute cancellations.
The daily administration of the bookshop is simple, and previous retail experience is not required for booking. Each new guest is trained by one of the Wigtown Festival Company’s volunteers, and even though visitors are left to man the shop on their own after their initial training, the volunteers often drop by to check in and say hello. Aside from that, the Open Book works like a standard Airbnb.
Since the shop first opened to the public, the festival company has been thrilled by the enthusiasm shown for the Open Book, and the way the local community has taken ownership of it and befriended its global pool of guests — a trend that has encouraged several individuals to return to Wigtown again and again.
The town itself has seen a wave of publicity because of the Open Book, too — Wigtown was even named Scotland’s “Most Creative Small Town” by the Creative Place Awards.
In the beginning, the Open Book was just a special way to keep the doors of a beloved shop open. But today, it offers a unique experience for those who venture to the Wigtownshire countryside and stay in the old building located at 2 High Street.
So, if you’re a bibliophile, an avid reader, or a kindred book lover, clear some time on your 2021 calendar and live out your dream of running your very own bookshop by the sea. You can thank us later.