We opened our shop a little over a year ago, now. For the Danes we’d like to provide the world’s literature, and introduce Danish literature to those who can’t read Danish.
Most of our books are in English, but we also have books in German, French, and Spanish. We care about translation, and we sometimes carry different translations of the same book.
We try to bring known and unknown literature from as close and far around the world as possible.
ark books is a nonprofit bookshop. What we make goes to covering the rent, buying new books, making events, and keeping prices low. Everyone who keeps the shop open is a volunteer. We are a forening, an open and democratic association run by a board elected by our own members.
ark books is a community bookshop that aims to be as inclusive a space as possible, where everyone can come and read and talk about books. There’s always free instant coffee and tea and you will be very welcome.
Our Story: A TALE OF PERSISTENCE, TRIAL, & ERROR
All the way back in 2011, the initial spark of an idea that would eventually come to be known as ark books was conceived on a kitchen table in the outskirts of the Northwest quarter of Copenhagen, very late at night, over candlelight and immoderate amounts of red wine. Among people who love books, the idea of opening your very own perfect little bookshop is perhaps not all that uncommon, and other, similarly grand ideas have probably been hatched under similar circumstances – but this idea turned out to persist, and two years later, when Poul Opstrup offered two of his long-time volunteers at Literaturhaus a teeny tiny room right across the street, at a very fair rent, for them to do something literary with, they jumped at the chance, perhaps not quite knowing what they were getting themselves into. One of those girls happened to have been one of the persons sharing that aforementioned box of red wine those two years back, and so plans were quickly set in motion to turn the basic idea of an international bookshop into a concrete reality. A small team was quickly assembled, and the first thing they did was sit down and find out what kind of bookshop Copenhagen needed the most. Seeing as the city really didn’t have much in the way of English and international bookshops, they stuck with their old dream. From there on, the concept found its shape, the team were confident in their plans, and so went about making them a reality.
However, perhaps the most important thing necessary to even begin to make an actual bookshop was money, and so, the small team boldly set out to try and win the favor of some Danish fund or another. However, after applying to every relevant fund in the book, the group begrudgingly had to conclude that the unique bookshop they had in mind didn’t quite fit the profile of any of these funds at all – the culture funds kept saying that they were a shop and so didn’t respond to the funds’ criteria, and the business funds kept saying they were a nonprofit bookshop and what the hell were they even doing, and so on. In the end, the team decided to try something even more bold, and appealed to the general readership of Copenhagen (and, indeed, the rest of the world) for support, in the hope that other people out there might feel as strongly as they themselves did about the whole idea, and would want to help make it a reality. This was bold because there really wasn’t any kind of guarantee that it would actually succeed – crowdfunding as an effective financing model hasn’t really caught on in Denmark yet, and the country’s size presents some basic problems. Had it not worked, the ark books team would have worked and worked and spammed people endlessly on social media for no good reason, and would, they felt, have made fools of themselves a little bit. However, their worries were put completely to shame when more than 300 individuals chose to donate money again and again, until the goals were not only met but in fact surpassed. Not only did this literally make ark books possible, but it gave the team a chance to test the viability of their ideas, to see how much actual interest was out there – and the result was completely overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and enough to make the whole team extremely happy and humble, when the campaign was finally over.
With the donations secured, and with some loans from a few very friendly godparents, as well as the money the team had stashed under mattresses and in piggy banks, enough money was all of a sudden secured. This was really a tremendous load off the team’s back, but instead of taking some time off to maybe relax a little or focus on their studies they forged on. From then on, it was a question of compiling endless lists of the books that needed to be on the shelves, with great help from friends who had read more deeply in Japanese literature, West African modernist novels etc. than the team itself had, as well as myriad other practical things that could now be accomplished with all that money. Then came the day (March 11th – less than one month before opening) when the keys to the actual room were handed over, and the next 20 days were a flourish of frantic activity in the packed and quite unbelievably tiny room at Møllegade 10, filling and polishing and painting the walls, fixing electricity and light, getting amazing help from a carpenter/architect friend who designed and constructed the bookshop’s beautiful shelves, lamps, table and stools. Working constantly and with help from friends every day until late at night right up until the night before opening day, the last shelf was finally put up at seven PM, the books were put up, the floor was cleaned, and all of a sudden there was a bookshop. Right around then the reality of the situation started to sink in. It was also right around this time when the team received a call from an insider at the Danish newspaper Politiken, saying that they should expect to find themselves on the front pages of both the culture section and the paper itself the next day, which gave the whole situation a renewed air of complete unreality. It also called for celebration and the premature uncirking of a couple of bottles of cava. The true celebration came the next day, which saw the opening reception and impromptu street party erupting around the minuscule storefront, and the party grew and grew, and for the next four days the team kept serving cava and apple cider and sparkly water to all who wanted it. And that is the tale of how a little bookshop open to everyone came to be located in the teeny tiny storeroom, right next to the Jewish cemetery, in Møllegade 10.