Buenos Aires is home to an endangered species - the bookstore. Debora Rey explains.

All across Argentina's capital, lodged between the steak houses, icecream shops and pizzerias, is an abundance of something that is becoming scarce in many nations: bookstores.

From hole-in-the-wall joints with used copies of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to elegant buildings with the latest children's books in several languages, Buenos Aires is filled with locales that pay homage to print.

With a population of 2.8 million people within the city limits, there are 25 bookstores for every 100,000 people, putting Buenos Aires far above other world cities such as London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York.

"Books represent us like the tango," said Juan Pablo Marciani, manager of El Ateneo Gran Splendid, a huge bookstore in the affluent Recoleta neighbourhood that 7000 people visit a week. "We have a culture very rooted in print."

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Behind the high number of bookstores, 734 by last count, is a combination of culture and economics.

Culture boomed along with the economy in the early part of the 20th century and even if the economic path grew rocky, ordinary Argentines embraced and stuck to the habit of reading. To this day, many across the region call the Argentine capital the "Paris of Latin America" thanks to its architecture, wide streets and general interest in the arts, music and literature.

During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, many top writers and editors fled to Argentina, further cementing the country as a literary capital and powerhouse for printing.

In 2014 there were 28,010 titles in circulation and 129 million books were printed in the country, according to the Argentine Book Chamber, making it one of the most prolific book printers in Latin America.

Many stores carry rare books that are hundreds of years old. At Libreria Alberto Casares, bookworms can gaze at a collection that includes a French translation of Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega from 1650 and Gregorian chants on papyrus dating back to 1722.

In buses and subways, in parks and cafes and even in malls, it's common to see people flipping pages of whodunits, histories and poetry, or most recently, new books about the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a case that has rocked the country since he was found shot dead in his bathroom on January 18.

Books also receive help when it comes to staving off the digital deluge. There are no sales taxes on books, notable in a country where most products get 21 per cent slapped on top of the sticker price.

And heavy import taxes on books and electronics such as e-readers, help keep the local printing industry strong. Less than 10 per cent of the 1.2 million people who attended the city's annual book fair last year said they used electronic devices to read books.

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CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand begins flying three days a week from Auckland to Buenos Aires in December.

- AAP