OXFORD is abandoning a bid to become the UK’s first City of Culture to focus on being chosen as the 2014 World Book Capital, it emerged last night.

Last month, the city council announced it was considering a bid to become the first UK City of Culture in 2013, after being one of 29 towns and cities invited by the Government to fight for the title.

But council leaders feared it would cost too much – about £100,000 – the same amount spent seven years ago on a failed bid to be named the 2008 European City of Culture.

The city council and its partner organisations have opted instead for aiming to be picked as Unesco’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s) World Book Capital.

If successful, Oxford would host a year-long festival of book-related events, attracting authors from all over the world.

Council leader Bob Price said: “City council officials met staff from the Bodleian Library in the summer and I’m confident we can take this forward. We’re planning to have another meeting before Christmas to sign off the bid.

“The Bodleian is world-famous, so there was no point in going ahead with this without its backing. Staff at Oxford University libraries are very keen on this, because it chimes well with their aspirations for the New Bodleian, and the display spaces which are expected to be opened in a new visitor centre in 2013.

“We felt we would not press on with a bid to become City of Culture, because at the moment councils don’t have the money to spend on something so speculative.”

Oxford author Philip Pullman, who wrote the award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy, welcomed news of the World Book Capital bid. He said: “This is the first I have heard of it, but it sounds like a good idea.”

The council is working with the Bodleian, despite clashing with the library over its plans for a book depository at Osney Mead, in West Oxford. The council turned down the Bodleian’s plan and it decided instead to build the storage building at South Marston, in Swindon, after losing an appeal last year.

Bodleian spokesman Oana Romocea said: “Oxford’s libraries have made a major contribution to the book culture of the city for at least 800 years, and continue to play a key role in supporting the world-class research and learning, publishing, reading and writing that take place in the city today.”

Previous World Book Capitals include Madrid, Montreal and Amsterdam.