Recently, I visited one of my local book shops, one that I had been wanting to visit for quite some time now, and I am sad to say that I was sorely disappointed. Browsing through the lackluster, haphazard, and unappealing shop, I began to imagine what a perfect book shop would look like...
In this post, I share 10 features that I believe every book shop should have. Check them out and tell me if you agree!
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READ AND CHILL
One of the first things that I do when I walk into a book shop is look for the lounge space. Not because I'm particularly fond of chilling out in public places (I'm 100% introvert and a solid bookworm, so my home library is the most comfortable place to relax) but because a rest area is an absolute necessity in a book shop. Why? Well, if you're anything like me then you wander the many book aisles searching for your perfect read. The books begin to pile in your arms and in your basket. You read the summary of each book, perhaps you search online for reviews and information about the authors, and you may even take the time to read a few chapters while you're at it. Now, imagine doing all this while standing. Yeah... lounge space is a must.
A good lounge space will be comfortable and cozy as well as provide a little privacy to provide one on one time with the books that you are thinking about purchasing. A lounge space tells the guests that they are welcome to enjoy, not only the books, but also the book shop since book shops hold a certain charm and peace that bookworms seek.
(NO) HIDE AND SEEK
The idea of playing hide and seek in a book store actually appeals to the child in me. Imagine, trying to stay quiet as you run and hide behind Drama and Romance while the seeker dashes across Travel and Languages. When it comes to finding my perfect read, however, I am a little more serious. Sometimes when I go shopping for books I just want to wander the aisles and seek out binded gems that may be hiding on the shelves. Other times, I know exactly what book I am looking for and I just want to tag it and go. This is where a decent directory comes in!
A directory can be a map that shows you exactly where you are in the book shop and how to find the aisle, or perhaps even the floor, you may find your book on. This is exceptionally helpful in book shops such as Powell's Book Store in Portland, Oregon that boasts a whopping 68,000 square feet (that's 1.6 acres, y'all!). Directories can be helpful also in smaller book shops because no matter how big or small the book shop is, sorting through thousands of aisles and books to find what you're looking for can be a daunting business.
CAN YOU HELP ME?
When the help that I need can't be found using the directory then I might just give up my introverted commitment to minimal human contact and find a staff member to help me out. Nothing is more disappointing than realizing that the staff of any particular book shop can't help you find your next read and has no idea where it actually could be or even if it actually is in the shop. What is even more annoying is when a staff member directs you to an incorrect section of the store just to get rid of you and masquerade their inexperience.
An experienced and knowledgeable staff is essential to a proper functioning book shop. I should be able to obtain the placement of specific books and book categories, as well as other pertinent information about authors and illustrators from the staff. People aren't perfect and my memory is just a fallible as the next person's so I don't expect book shop staff to memorize it all; inventory technology can help a book shop equip their staff with a database that they can consult when their expertise needs a little help.
No one visits a book shop with the intention of buying tea and snacks but it sure does sweeten the entire experience when a book shop keeps these on hand. I usually spend hours in a book shop and I must admit, I get a little parched and famished, so I welcome any refreshment that a book shop provides.
What about tea? Tea and books go hand and hand (I've created an entire blog about them both) and tea is just the calming and grounding beverage you need to wisely add books to your #TBR list. Imagine a strong black tea such as Keemun by Four Symbols Tea to keep you energized after several aisles of book browsing. Or perhaps a calming but interestingly delicious tea such as Dandelion Root Tea by Buddha's Herbs while you contemplate your book selections in the lounge area? Tea also is known to open up conversation and unify people; what better place to be conversing and congregating than in a book shop!
I am, unfortunately, a perfectionist. And like all perfectionists, I like order. Lots of it. I like to be able to find things easily due to their impeccable organization. When I browse the shelves of a book shop, I don't expect perfection (actually I do, but I'm working on this...) but I do expect for the books to be shelved in a neat and orderly fashion that allows the books to be easily retrieved.
Neat shelves don't necessarily denote that the books are stacked in a conventional manner. I've seen some really interesting and creative ways to shelve books and I'm here for book shop dramatics! I don't condone, however, books that are haphazardly thrown on the shelves sacrificing even the condition of the books and the respect given to these works of art that authors have sometimes spent years to create. Neat and orderly shelves reflect the pride of any good book shop and pays homage to the authors and illustrators who bring them to us.
I saw a meme on Instagram that mocked the use of a bookmark, suggesting that readers use almost anything and everything to mark their place in a book except an actual bookmark. Although I can relate to the improvised bookmark (I have used my share of sticky notes and boarding passes in the absence of a real bookmark) I don't believe that bookmarks and book accessories are obsolete. I absolutely love a good book accessory and collecting interesting and fun bookmarks is a simple hobby of mine.
What would late night reading be without a reading light? What would reading and note taking be like without those little magnetic bookmarks that say, "This was interesting!". Or what about the book covers that protect some of your most expensive and precious reads? A book shop that caters to the entire reading experience is always a plus and I consider it a must if the shop is going to be mark it's place in my heart.
A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES
When you imagine the perfect book shop, what does it look like? Perhaps it's nestled in the brush of greenery and looks like a cottage with large windows displaying slightly dusty classics or maybe it's modern and sleek with high ceilings and tall shelves to match. I'm sure whatever your perfect book shop resembles that it holds its own charm, mystique and wonder and that it would be beautiful to look at.
A shop that leaves you wondering if the book shop owner actually likes books or not is usually one that ignored the essential aspect of design. The books are, in fact, on display, and should be on display in a very intentional and pretty way.
DO IT FOR THE CULTURE
Book shops are part of communities and these communities, diverse though they may be, usually are marked by a particular culture. The demographic of a book shop's location should definitely be taken into consideration since it is the majority that will indeed purchase the books and it should be to the majority that the book shop's content appeals.
Is the demographic predominately Spanish speaking? What about the community's culture? Is the community's interests centered on specific tastes? A book shop does well to be conscious of the culture of its patrons and to appeal to the community that will benefit from its books.
WORLD WIDE WEB
As I write this post we are well into 2019 and we are on the fringes of an entirely new year. I don't know who needs to hear this in this day and age but here it goes: The internet is where it's at. No, seriously, if book shops do not have internet presence, such as a website and social media, how in the world wide web are we supposed to find them?
A book shop that really wants to appeal to its patrons will not only have a well-functioning website to provide updates on what is going on at the shop, but it will also have social media to help people learn the culture of the shop itself.
BOOK WORMS CAN BE SOCIAL (NO, REALLY)
Let's face it, online marketplaces have created a very spoiled generation of people who expect everything, including their next read, on their doorstep in 2 days or less. And when I say "a very spoiled generation of people", I'm talking about myself. I am a very spoiled generation of people. It's nice to browse a book shop every now and then and it's even better to visit your local bookshop when you know that there is a planned event where other book lovers and bookworms in the community will commune.
Book clubs, poetry night, book signings, and book fairs all sound great to me! After all, it is the book shop's responsibility to help the introverted bookworms of the world like myself slide out of their hoodies and pajama pants and slide into the social world.
I really hope you enjoyed this blog post of 10 features that I believe every decent book shop should have. Do you agree with me? Are there some features that I forgot? Share your thoughts below!
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What do you expect most out of your local book shop?