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Enter the world of this Montreal bookstore, where you can swap your phone for a book

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Every Wednesday evening, in a quaint bookstore in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, a small group of people -- readers -- get together, all tucked away in their own little corners, cozy with a book.

"They give us their phone or tablet, whatever they have and we keep it at the register," De Stiil Booksellers owner Aude Le Dubé tells CTV News. "They bring their own book. They read their book for an hour. We close the doors. We put on real cool jazz, and they read."

It's a weekly event called Page Break, offering a small amount of time to take a literal and literary break from screens and technology.

Le Dubé credits a former employee with the concept, which she borrowed from a store called the Book Hive in Norwich, U.K.

"She told me about nights that they call 'Page against the machine,'" recalls Le Dubé. "I was not too sure about it, but I'm always open to new ideas. And so, she sent them an email and asked them if it was OK to do the same thing here and they said, 'OK.'"

Le Dubé, who hails from Brittany in France's northwest, has a storied background.

She's lived in numerous countries -- including the U.S. and Switzerland -- and has reinvented herself an even greater number of times -- as a translator, a copywriter and an author, to name a few.

One of her novels, La mer intérieure was even awarded the Grand prix de l’association des écrivains bretons in 1996.

More than a bookstore owner, Le Dubé says she's a bookseller.

She explains six years ago, the bookstore existed as a "concept store" called État de Style.

"We sold clothing, ceramics, candles, all locally made, and books, but mostly coffee table books and art books," she said.

Like many entrepreneurs, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Le Dubé says she had to reconsider what she wanted to do "with what little money we had left."

De Stiil Booksellers owner Aude Le Dubé. (Courtesy: De Stiil Booksellers/Instagram)

The decision was simple: just sell books.

"I said, 'OK, let's dive in.' So, at first, when it started, we had very few books because we didn't have money," she tells CTV News. "I had to be very careful about buying, and people came in and they loved the fact that it was curated. Little did they know that it was not by choice but for charity."

The secret to her success? Buying books like a reader, not a bookseller.

Page break

Le Dubé says she never thought the weekly Page Break events, at a cost of $5 per person, would make such a big difference in people's lives.

"Some people have been coming here every Wednesday for two-and-a-half years, and they need friends...Many are newcomers or foreigners, and it's a way to meet other readers," she explains. "It's like a way to get out of loneliness and to be around people. I mean, readers, they can't be bad, you know, it's a safe space."

Le Dubé adds she embellishes the store with chairs and mattresses to allow people to really get comfortable.

The weekly events have gained so much popularity that she's had to turn people away at the door as there is only enough place for about 30 people inside.

"I tell them, 'why don't you do it at home? Why don't you do it at home, you invite friends, you serve them a glass of wine, or whatever, and for an hour, you read the book that you brought, and then you can have a dinner party where you talk about your books?'" she muses. "I think it's a great concept, but I think they need the third space. We are a third space. So they like to come here. It's cozy. We're nice."

Her aspirations for the store's future are simple -- and perhaps, a little unexpected.

"My wildest dream is that a couple will meet here, fall in love and get married in the store," she tells CTV News. "I would love for that to happen."

Page break takes place every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at De Stiil (351 Duluth Ave. E).

Readers are invited to arrive by 6:30 p.m. to have enough time to get settled.

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