books1What would the bookstore of the future look like? The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine asked four Commonwealth architecture firms to come up with their futuristic vision for a small High Street bookshop with two floors of 1,000 square feet each, and a limited budget of £100,000 (about $168,000) to make all the improvements.

The visions they came up with are certainly interesting. They differ in details, but they all agree that it’s not just a matter of moving furniture around to make it look nice. They need to redefine the bookstore’s business model, and then design a space to support that model.

Most of the designs focused on providing an enticing space to draw customers in, then give them things to do while they’re in there. Open space was a common feature in these shops—no more filling most of the space with shelves. Instead, there were plenty of sitting and reading areas, with shelves around the perimeter. One design suggested making the glass panel of the façade into a touch-sensitive monitor so that people could interact with the store even when it was closed, and included a “vending wall” that swings out onto the sidewalk to entice passers-by with a changing selection of titles.

Common to these visions is the idea that bookstores need to stand on their own two feet to compete. It’s not enough to be a passive sort of place where people can come in and peer at shelves anymore. You have to give them a reason to come in, and a reason to buy while they’re there instead of just showroom for Amazon or the other on-line vendor of their choice. That’s a lesson the most successful independent bookstores are also learning for themselves these days.

(Found via The Passive Voice.)


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