“We created Page Against the Machine in 2017 in response to research from UK charity The Reading Agency, which found that 67% of UK adults would like to read more — and not just for entertainment. Nearly two thirds of people said they’d like to turn to a book in times of stress, anxiety or illness.

But the research also found a problem: even though they’d like to, people struggle to find time to read, because the demands and distractions of hectic lifestyles get in the way. The reason people want to read (respite from busy, stressful lives), is the reason they can’t (their lives are too busy and stressful).

Our key idea was to think about reading as a practice. Rather than snatching a few lines before bed or on your commute, what if reading was something you committed regular time to — just like putting an hour aside for the gym, yoga or meditation?

Every Wednesday, our bookshop stays open an extra hour between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. We invite people travelling home from work to stop in and simply read for an hour. No need to buy anything — it’s BYOB (bring your own book). Phones off, cup of tea or glass of wine, quiet music… although we like to start and end the session with a chat about what everyone is reading, giving the whole thing an informal book club feel.

During the covid lockdowns, we kept Page Against the Machine going online, where we reached more readers than ever before, in the UK and abroad. The concept has now been adopted by several other bookshops nationwide – and even one in Canada. 

We also run a yearly, outdoor version of the event in partnership with National Centre for Writing as part of the Norwich & Norfolk Festival, in Norwich’s beautiful Plantation Garden.

In 2023, to celebrate ten years of being a UNESCO City of Literature, we’re going one step further – opening up Page Against the Machine to the world. 

Thank you for being involved. Considering the pace of modern life, taking a moment to slow down and focus on one thing isn’t just good for our wellbeing – it’s actually quite a rebellious act.

Viva the reading revolution!”

Joe Hedinger

Bookseller at The Book Hive, Norwich UNESCO City of Literature