Can you imagine a bookstore run by robots? The first of 20 just opened in Beijing! You just register your real name using your WeChat account (like Facebook) and have your face scanned before entering. Because the store has access to all your purchasing information, it claims it can offer "precise and humanized" book suggestions.
This is disturbing on so many levels. First is the loss of privacy that comes with this digital age. Because I research books for many of our customers, my search history indicates a very confused consumer at best!
Next is the isolation that is encouraged by removing people from even simple retail transactions. Our society is so fragmented that sometimes a cheerful greeting can brighten an entire day.
The robot store book selection is "limited to popular bestsellers that aren't regularly updated.” A big contrast to independent booksellers who spend hours and days reviewing forthcoming books. As we scan catalogs, we have our community in mind: Do we know someone who might be excited by this new author? Is there current interest in a book on making beaded jewelry? Hiking the AT? Cooking Thai food? Is there a gap in our selection of field guides? Are we weak on cozy mysteries? Do we need more young adult gothic fantasies? In other words, we work hard to curate our selection to fit our community.
If the 24/7 aspect of the store is attractive, on our website you can order a bestseller or peruse our staff picks and see what the Book Jam blog is recommending. And then stop by the store for a friendly welcome, free gift wrap, and perhaps a treat for your pup!
I am not a robot. ~ Liza
(originally posted 3.22.18)