The Project

Popular Print Edmonton is a collaborative research project located in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. The work involves undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty researchers in the investigation of print and reading in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada from 2013 to 2018.

Our Approach

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada—officially, a city of government, education, culture, and industry. Unofficially, an intricate mix of nearly a million life stories.

As I slip past the sliding doors of the light rail train on a lazy June Wednesday, I think of Edmonton’s public transit system as a microcosm of the city itself: diverse, moving, in perpetual transition as the crowds flow in almost-predictable patterns with the modern world. It’s 11am, and I expect that the morning surge of business professionals heading to work has faded, but at the far end of the train, two smartly-dressed men with lanyards and thick binders make casual conversation. Nearby, a mom holds a stroller in one hand and a toddler’s index finger in the other, a student struggles to stay balanced under the weight of an overstuffed backpack, and a lady in pretty green shoes sits kiddy-corner to an elderly man.

But the scene lasts only a few minutes, the face of the train changing with every brief stop. Two teens with skateboards and a trio of women chatting in French enter; the elderly man heads out; then, a yawning man sporting an Oilers’ cap joins the crowd and the mom starts to head towards the doors. Soon the shifts are happening too quickly for me to follow them all. But amid the constant fluctuation and activity there is one constant: all these Edmontonians are readers.

Some are “readers” in the traditional sense. George Orwell’s 1984 peaks out of one woman’s bag. Another wears an "I Heart EPL" button to show support for the local public library, and the student population undoubtedly spends hours skimming heavy textbooks and dense scholarly articles. Bookstores, including both chains like Chapters and independent shops such as Audrey’s Books, thrive in the city. But literacy in Edmonton is far more diverse and often appears more mundane. It includes the board books stuffed in the bottom of the young mom’s stroller, the business papers stacked in the men’s binders, the local Edmonton Metro newspaper lying abandoned on an empty seat, the abundance of stickers scrawled with popular phrases covering the bottom of a skateboard, and even the ads lining the ceiling of the train car. Edmontonians are reading and interpreting print constantly—using it for work, pleasure, distraction, education, and social connection.

We’re excited about the details of everyday reading, believing that the most mundane print items are central to how we make sense of the world. Rather than studying literary canons, we’re interested in the reading people choose for themselves. Since 2015, we’ve been investigating who everyday readers are, what they read, how they read, and how they use print.

We’ve done our book work, but much of our research has happened on the ground. We’re perusing bestseller shelves, investigating free magazine racks, comparing newspapers in China Town, and visiting Eekfest! and the Edmonton Expo to check out the trends in the nerd community. We’re getting on the phone with distribution managers, library designers, and store owners to learn how material gets on the shelves and who’s taking it home. And, of course, we’re talking to readers to learn how print fits into their routines. Our research is never “finished”--we’re always learning new things about Edmonton’s print market.

The Website

This site enables users to browse the findings of our investigation in five ways: people, places, items, reports, and narratives.

  • "People" lists publishers, sellers, authors, and others involved in the production and reception of print.
  • "Places" locates book shops, cafes, schools, and other places relevant to print and reading.
  • "Items" describe print objects with bibliographic information and images.
  • "Reports" provide multimedia description of print and reading based on field research, including collection, observation, photography, and interviews.
  • "Narratives" collect research reports on a single subject by one or more authors.

    As of 2018, the site includes close to 500 people and 100 places, more than 700 items, 82 reports, and 10 narratives. For more information about project development, see our Project Timeline.

    Project Contributors

    Director: Gary Kelly

    Coordinator: David Buchanan

    Editor and photographer: Janice Vis-Gitzel

    Research team lead and database manager: Belinda Ongaro

    Software developer: Mark Madsen

    Website designers: Mariana Paredes-Olea & Omar Rodriguez-Arenas

    Student research team: Andrea Barr, Nicholas Eveneshen, Samantha Fitzner, Sebastian Larochelle, Belinda Ongaro, Tori Raposo, Sarah Trawick, Janice Vis, Kevin Welch, Sylvia Wong; other contributors: Samantha Del Bono, Neelam Gill, Janina Graham, Chenille Hinz, Blaze Manning, Vivian Poon


    This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.

    Terms and Conditions

    The materials contained within Popular Print Edmonton are provided for research or educational use. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Popular Print Edmonton does not own the copyright of scanned images of texts used at this site. For this reason, usage of Popular Print Edmonton is governed by a Creative Commons license that discourages the distribution of materials for commercial purposes or without attribution.

    If you wish to include images from Popular Print Edmonton in an article or book, please contact the copyright owner to request the necessary permission.

    Contact Information

    Department of English and Film Studies, 4-74 Humanities Centre, University of Alberta, 11121 Saskatchewan Drive NW, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E5

    Inquiries may be directed to David Buchanan at dbuchanan[at]ualberta.ca.