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Automated Bookstore Opens in Beijing International Book Mall

Amazon is building bookstores that look like they were designed by an AI(*), but Beijing  is going one better. The Beijing International Book Mall is now home to a completely automated bookstore.

From The Beijinger:

Late night shoppers looking with a need to buy books will have their very specific conditions met in Beijing as 20 new staffless bookstores that will operate 24 hours a day are expected to open throughout the city this year.

Book-selling franchise Xinhua opened the first of the planned stores last month in east-end Tongzhou. Featuring an automated system with no regular human staff, the all-day bookstores are planned to be built at Beijing universities, government offices, and shopping malls.

Like other staffless stores, the "Xinhua Lifestyle Store" requires all customers to register their real names using their WeChat accounts and have their faces scanned before entering. And because the store has access to all their users' purchasing information, it can offer "precise and humanized" book suggestions to all of its customers.

Despite its convenience, the staffless store faces a number of drawbacks. For one thing, the 30-square-meter shop doesn’t offer a wide selection of books. The store’s book selection is limited to popular bestsellers that aren’t regularly updated. And, if customers are able to hold off their purchases until normal business hours, they would find a wider selection of books at the 80,000-square-meter Beijing International Book Mall, inside which the staffless bookstore is located.

That doesn’t sound appealing at all.

In an age where anyone in a hurry can download a book rather than get a paper copy, is there really a need for this kind of store?

P.S. I have visited an Amazon Books, and I am working on a post.

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Mark Williams – The New Publishing Standard March 14, 2018 um 5:06 am

"In an age where anyone in a hurry can download a book rather than get a paper copy, is there really a need for this kind of store?"

Given most people prefer print the answer is clearly yes, which is why Amazon is opening print bookstores.

The point of the Beijing stores is that these can act as pop-up shops that can be installed pretty much anywhere for people who want to get books on their own time, not the times the regular stores are open.

Nate Hoffelder March 14, 2018 um 8:39 am

Yes, people "prefer" books so much that the textbook market is evaporating into the internet. And people prefer print so much that the romance market has gone almost completely digital.

Mark Williams – The New Publishing Standard March 14, 2018 um 4:12 pm

Romance and text books hardly comprise the book market, Nate.

The supposed digital dominance of the romance market is debatable. If we introduce a vast number of new romance ebooks with no print equivalent then lots more digital romance can be sold without necessarily meaning an equivalent drop in print. We simply don’t know what the real situation is, but I’m intrigued by the number of romance authors I know who are not reporting anywhere near a 90-10 ratio between ebook and rrint sales.

As I’ll be reporting in TNPS soon, we simply don’t know where we stand now. The latest AE Report numbers, taken at face value, blow apart the old AE romance numbers, and as Data Guy is now stressing, the old reports were simply one-day snapshots with lots of multi-counting of overlapping categories. Meantime the new report, based on very different criteria, won’t give any of us a full picture until next December. And even then most of the data will not be made public to the likes of you and I.

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