Ultimate Library aims to beef up hotel literary offerings

Ultimate Library helps hotels to offer their guests a better array of reading choices, with a focus on books with a sense of place.

Juan Medina/Reuters
A travelers walk through Madrid-Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain.

Too many bibliophiles, says Philip Blackwell, have been stranded in a hotel without anything to read except a Bible and some out-of-date paperbacks.

Blackwell, who had served as the CEO of his family’s bookstore business, decided it was time to upgrade the literary offerings available for guests at hotels and started the business Ultimate Library, which selects, then sells, books to hotels in an attempt to make the books offered at each location better for those staying there. The business was started in 2007.

“As frequent travellers and bibliophiles, we have always enjoyed reading about the places we visit and reading those books that best capture the sense of place, whether fiction, traveller's tales or even poetry,” Ultimate Library’s website reads. “Reading great books has always been an integral part of every holiday we have been on. But we have always been dismayed by the poor quality of reading material offered in hotels and have never understood why.”

In addition to suggesting books for a library that are simply enjoyable to read, Ultimate Library notes a hotel’s location and selects books that are related to the surrounding area so guests can learn about where they are staying. Ultimate Library can select books for a hotel lounge, library, and/or guests’ rooms, depending on the hotel’s preference.

Blackwell told the Economist that the company works to create a selection from both second-hand and new titles so the hotel library they create doesn’t only have the current bestsellers.

“The library should not look like you walked into a bookshop in 2013,” Blackwell said. “It needs depth.”

Ultimate Library consults with writers and those who travel often to select books for a certain location. In addition, hotels can choose to have an Ultimate Library staff member come to the building to talk over book possibilities with management there. After the library has been created, the company then touches base with the hotel every so often to suggest new titles to add.

The company has supplied hotels all over the world, including chain locations such as Sheraton, Hilton, and Westin.

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