In the mid-1980s, a band of booksellers moved into the empty barns and transformed [Redu, Belgium] into a literary lodestone. The village of about 400 became home to more than two dozen bookstores — more shops than cows, its boosters liked to say — and thousands of tourists thronged its charming streets.Now, though, more than half the bookstores have closed. Some of the storekeepers died, others left when they could no longer make a living. Many who remain are in their 70s and aren’t sure what’ll happen after they’re gone.It’s not just the businesses at risk. It’s Redu’s identity. This is a place that celebrates itself as a “village du livre,” or a “book town.” Its public lampposts and trash cans are adorned with bibliophilic hieroglyphs.But what happens when the main attractions become less attractive? This is the challenge the village du livre must now confront. Those who are less hopeful say their trade has fallen out of fashion, and that people, especially young people, are reading fewer books.“The clientele is aging and is even disappearing,” said Paul Brandeleer, owner of La Librairie Ardennaise. Now, at 73, he’s living off his retirement pension. A sign in front of his store used to advertise his services as “achat — vente,” or buying and selling, but the former has been crossed out. He doesn’t want any more books.“I have 30,000 books, but when we disappear, they will go to the trash,” Brandeleer said. “We have no kids to take over — they are not interested.”
The story continues at The Washington Post.