BURY St Edmunds is one of the most bookish towns in the country.
Online booksellers Amazon has placed Bury ninth in its list of what it calls the Top 10 List of the Best Read Towns and Cities in the UK.
It even beats Oxford, whose dreaming spires only harbour enough online book buyers to manage an 18th place in the top 20. However, Oxford’s rival Cambridge came second, beaten only by Huntingdon. Kent is the county with the most towns in both the top 10 and top 20 and Norfolk does not appear at all.
Amazon compiled data on all book sales in both print and Kindle e-book format since January 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in towns and cities with more than 20,000 residents.
The findings do not surprise Amazon’s online and high street rival Waterstones, for whom Bury is one of the few towns in which it has two stores, one in Buttermarket and the other in the arc.
Mary McIntosh manages both and said: “We at Waterstones do regard Bury St Edmunds as a bookish town. On average our customers are very well-educated with a high proportion of professional people. There is also a large number of well-read and intelligent retired book buyers who have often moved to Suffolk from London for a quieter life and more time to read and reflect.
“These customers are very well informed and follow the national newspaper review columns and listen to review programmes.
“The rise in the purchase of e-books is not surprising and sales of those through waterstones.com are the fastest growing part of the business. But the predicted demise of the paper book is many years off and for those that love the feel, smell and most of all the contents of a ‘real’ book there is no better place than either of the Waterstones stores in town.”
While admitting that many of her customers buy books from online sources, too, she admitted she was concerned that so many Bury readers choose to buy that way.
She said: “The high street bookshop is an important part of any town’s cultural life and we need the support of local customers to continue.”
But Bury bookworms are not fussy where they get their reading ‘fix’ from. Suffolk County Council says Bury library is one of the three busiest in the county, only beaten for book loans in 2010/11 by branches in the more urban catchment areas of Lowestoft and Ipswich. Even though it was closed for a short time for a major refurbishment, it still made 228,555 loans, compared with Lowestoft’s 302,275.