Books and movies

Designing my bookstore

Now this is a bookstore. El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image by longhorndave, orignal posted at
Now this is a bookstore. El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image by longhorndave, orignal posted at Flickr.

Some recent tweets pointed me to two two articles from last year about designing bookstores (What makes a good bookshop? and Let’s reinvent the bookshop). I like some of the ideas, but not all of them, so I thought I would design my own.

It would be full of books

It seems obvious to say that a bookshop should have books, but to me one of the gauges of how well a bookshop is doing is how much non-book stock they are trying to sell. Before it went broke, Borders, for example, had started to get a lot of non-book stock in.

A bookshop is still a bookshop. It should sell books.

Ability to sell eBooks

eBooks are offered almost exclusively online, but I would love to see a bookshop offer the same. Ideally in different formats. A tap and load card that you could pay for at the counter or through an app on your phone/tablet.

You should also be able to order online (hard copy or electronic) and have a book mailed to you or be able to collect it from the store.

Information kiosks

While we’re on electronics, information kiosks where you can scan a book’s barcode to find out more about it. What other books the author has, volume number if it’s part of a series, how long it would take to order if it’s not in stock, even links to feedback sites like Good Reads.

Plus, an app on the user’s phone/tablet where they can do the same, only if they do it on their own device you could add links to the store to order if required.

Room to move

Aisles wide enough for people to browse but others to pass. Reading spots where a browser can stand out of the way.

Knowledgeable staff

One of the best things about a good bookstore—about any store really—is staff who know their product.

They know their books, but they’re also familiar with the standard electronic devices and can load an eBook for a customer (assuming the customer has an account).


A pleasant space serving tea, coffee, cold drinks and sandwiches and cakes. It doesn’t have to be grand, but it does have to be clean. Ideally it would have lots of seats for singles. A lot of people go into bookstores alone.

You could take it even further and get a liquor license, which could also be useful for the book launches/book talks.

Maybe even a writer’s space, where writers can bring their laptops and work.

A dedicated area for book talks

Ideally it would have tiered seating (maybe bleacher style), and a little stage area at the bottom. It should definitely have good acoustics.

Lots of book talks to go with the area. Maybe even book launches as well.

A combined cafe/booktalk area might work, provided it is set up properly. I find, however, that in many bookstores with cafes where I go to hear authors, the noise of the refrigerators tends to drown out the author.

Resident authors

I’d like to see a space for resident authors. An author promoting a new release could sit in the store mornings for a week, say, and write. Obviously, their writing would be interrupted, but it would be good PR.

The store could also hire out the café to writing groups when the bookstore was closed. The authors would pay for this (in advance, because you’d have to cover costs), but the store would provide tea and coffee and biscuits.


A print-on-demand (POD) facility, where the customer can get books printed. Again, this should be integrated into the store’s online store as well, so the user can submit their own work in to be printed and then come in to collect it.

Obvioiusly, there would be restrictions. The store wouldn’t print eBooks, for example.Plus, I’m okay with POD books being more expensive that other books in the store to prevent anyone thinking it smart to print their own copy.

There’s lots more, of course. But that’s a start.

p.s. The bookstore in the image is El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookstore in Buenos Aires. The building was originally a theatre. It looks amazing.

The photographer is Dave (longhorndave–sorry, Dave, I don’t know any more details) and permission for use is given under a creative commons license. The original image is from Flickr.

There’s also another article in the Guardian showing photographs of bookshops of the world.

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