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  • Deborah Yaffe

At your service

When you shell out $250 to $450 for a night in a university town’s boutique hotel, what amenities do you expect to get for your money?


Breakfast? Sure. Free Wifi? Definitely. Complimentary champagne? Won’t say no. But how about Jane Austen room service?


Because the University Arms, a luxury hotel in Cambridge, England, recently announced the launch of a special new service: the Book Butler program, wherein specially trained staff members help meet guests’ reading needs.


Once you decide if you prefer romance or biography, gardening or philosophy, the Book Butler springs into action, picking a selection of works from the University Arms library “to be hand delivered to the guest’s room or suite on a silver platter,” the hotel’s press release explains. Guests can keep the books for the duration of their stay.


The hotel’s library, which includes more than two hundred titles, was curated by the eighty-six-year-old London bookshop Heywood Hill, where the writer Nancy Mitford once worked. The store is located in super-upscale Mayfair and its majority shareholder is the current Duke of Devonshire, son of Mitford’s sister Deborah, so I think we can assume that the University Arms’ book collection doesn’t include too many dog-eared paperbacks of Flowers in the Attic.


“We have so many classics, from Dickens to John Dryden to Jane Austen,” reception manager Margherita Zeviani recently told Bloomberg. “We also have a lot of books about England and the UK.”


Personally, I never go anywhere that requires an overnight stay without bringing along a selection of books I’ve curated for myself, usually on a little book-butlering device called a Kindle. Still, the silver platter is a nice touch. As long as we’re doing this thing, though, I think I would like the pages of my books to be individually ironed, as well.

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