Hay-on-Wye is a fascinating story about entrepreneurhip and innovation in a small and remotely located village without any touristic features at all.
In 1961 the unemployed Richard Booth started selling second-hand books by the kilo from the old fire station. This concept caught on, and other bookshop entrepreneurs learned from the experience. At first with some agonies, but competing booksellers have since been working together in so called “co-opetition”. The agglomeration of a larger number – 30 bookshops – has been a main attracting factor in Hay-on-Wye, which has 1400 inhabitants. Some of the bookshops are highly specialized. The effect of the innovative agglomeration goes far beyond the local area.
Since the 1960s, Hay-on-Wye developed the book-town concept also involving the local municipality. Today it is the largest second hand and antiquarian book centre in the world, attracting over a million visitors each year. Quite some other activities have been established, contributing to and thriving from the book-selling. Cultural events such as a literature festival supports the book brand, and 40,000 visitors make their way to the place every year to experience literature the Hay-on-Wye way.
A number of local networks ensure a continual development of Hay-on-Wye. A marketing expert is responsible for professional communication, without which the town and its book entrepreneur would hardly have experienced such an immense success.
In more recent years, a book-town network has been established, and the concept has been wider innovated in other parts of the world.
You can read about the Hay-on-Wye innovation model in Fussing-Jensen et al (2005).