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Last Modified: December 12, 2023
Analog Books Graphic with interior of store
Of Steampunk, Fountain Pens, and Books: A visit to Analog Books in Lethbridge
Photo of Analog Books' interior
Interior of Analog Books.

Upon entering this magical building, you are immediately convinced copper can be beautiful. You think, “metalwork is an art, as is mechanics.” Indeed, anything with an intricate mechanism is an invention worth marvelling at. Cameras of yore—the kind you would expect to be effective in capturing material evidence of spirits—line the uppermost shelves, as do old globes, typewriters, a gramophone, wooden models of automobiles and engines, film projectors, and an aviation helmet you might select if you were piloting a hot air balloon or a zeppelin to an island in the sky.

It takes a moment to realize you are not, in fact, standing in a steampunk museum, but in Analog Books, the only independent bookstore to operate in Lethbridge in over twenty years. But these fantastical representations of exploration and invention in the Victorian age are steampunk, baby. Paired with the black shelves—black so that the book jackets become the colour palette, black so that, like a black box theatre, the subject is in focus—this steampunk aesthetic is, sheerly, awesome.

Scott Warris, who comprises one-third of Analog’s ownership team, grew up in and around his grandfather’s shop, among the high-pressure welders of a boilermaker. This manipulation of metal has made a lasting impression on him. All the glistening copper fixtures on display in Analog Books are the work of his own hands, as are the shelves. When you walk into Analog Books, you immediately feel comfortable in and excited by all the worlds that surround you, the worlds contained between covers of the books and the worlds evoked by the dozens of antique inventions.

Here to advise you on your travels through these worlds is the ever-qualified Penny. She chuckles, “I used to be a travel agent, so while I used to tell people where to go, now I tell them what to read!” We agree the occupations of travel agent and bookseller share one important quality: Penny will guide you precisely to the journey you most want to go on. She’d also be glad to demonstrate and recommend one of the dozens of writing implements Analog stocks. Their feature wall of fountain pens and their array of inkpots is delightful.

“Penny is a pen nerd,” says Scott, as he tells me about the fountain pen night she hosts at Analog to encourage more pen enthusiasts in the community. Scott, for his part, is a typewriter nerd. Analog had a scriptorium set up at Lethbridge’s Word on the Street in September with four typewriter stations for folks young and old to discover (or rediscover) the joys of analog typing: *thwap* *thwap* *ding!* Pull the arm, return carriage! On to the next line.

Photo of Hugo the Analog Books shop cat
The third Analog owner, Hugo.

The final third of Analog’s ownership is, well, not fiscally responsible, and the only book he’s likely to recommend has to do with the proper spoiling of felines. Hugo, who you can learn more about in our 2021 Read Alberta interview, is named after the fantastic steampunk young adult (graphic) novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. Hugo is a huge celebrity around Lethbridge, and so his charm is widely sought. That said, he’s so friendly, he would agree there is enough kitty love to go around.

When pandemic restrictions were easing up, Scott and Penny were eager to fulfill their ultimate vision for the bookstore: to serve as a community space where Lethbridgians (Lethbridgites?) could gather. To test the community’s appetite, the first event Analog Books hosted was to celebrate Hugo’s birthday. Turns out that was exactly what the community wanted! Hugo’s birthday is now the second most successful day of the year, second only to the holiday season. Folks bring him birthday cards, treats, toys, and schedule a day of their lives to celebrate Hugo.

Three years ago, when Scott and Penny Warris moved to Lethbridge from Crow’s Nest Pass, they were familiar with the city but not with its citizens. They deduced many of the ingredients that make a bookstore successful by travelling to other independent bookstores in North America and the UK—call it field research. And they learned from the American-based industry guide, Owning a Bookstore: The Essential Guide. In that guide, they discovered Lethbridge ticked all of the boxes that a city must satisfy if an indie bookstore is to be successful: a minimum population of 100,000, the right demographic (having a research institution like the University of Lethbridge in a city of this size is a boon), and a strong arts and culture scene (strong enough to rival Edmonton or Calgary).

Still, two years into a five-year plan, they couldn’t have predicted a global pandemic, nor the impact it could have on local businesses. Risks and all, Analog Books opened up on 6th Street in downtown Lethbridge in 2020 with hopes that the surrounding businesses would bring foot traffic onto the street and into Analog to peruse their shelves. Instead, it became clear almost immediately that Analog Books would serve as anchor on the street.

The night after this year’s Word on the Street, they brought in over fifty people to celebrate the launch of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s new novel, Fayne. In a moment of quiet bliss, Penny looked out at the attendees, all attentive to Ann-Marie’s talents, and it hit her that she recognized every single face in the crowd. The Warrises have built an events space, a gathering space, that feels like a home away from home and that cultivates an environment ripe for curiosity, learning, and joyful discovery.

Take a deep breath while resting in a leather armchair in front of the fireplace of Analog Books. An illustrated portrait of Hugo hangs above its mantle. Hugo brushes against your leg as you open the pages to your next journey. Analog Books is a gem that powers many a fantastic adventure.


Colby Clair Stolson lies on a rug with a stunned expression on his face. A typewriter rests on his stomach, and books are on the ground beside him.Colby Clair Stolson grew up somewhere in the in-between, in a town called Ponoka. Every day he asks himself, “Who knows if the moon’s/a balloon”? And some of those balloons have been published: in Edmonton’s Glass Buffalo and Funicular Magazine, and in Canada’s (via Ottawa) Touch the Donkey and periodicities.