retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times has a story about how in the UK, "a crop of bookshops is rebelling against frenzied online engagement and is creating environments where the real-life, internet-free book browse is the most effective way to expand your social and professional networks. And in countering the internet overload, some stores are proving to be among London’s hottest hangouts."

The move is a kind of statement against modern physical bookshops in which wifi access and coffee shops have been seen as the best way to create a welcoming and attractive physical environment. But in the UK, where "quaint, old-fashioned bookshops" have long provided a traditional experience where one can "browse uninterrupted" and "disconnect from the world," the more modern experience is seen by some as a kind of social heresy.

"Leading the rebels is Libreria Books in London’s East End, which is a Wi-Fi- and coffee-free zone," the Times writes. "It was opened in February by Rohan Silva, a former policy adviser to the former prime minister David Cameron, and co-founder of Second Home, a members’ club providing a work space for entrepreneurs.

“'We’re celebrating human curation over algorithmic rhythms,' said Mr. Silva, who was spurred to open his shop after experiencing a common affliction for London’s bibliophiles — the repetitive, grating ring tones of smartphones disrupting the tranquillity of his bookshop experience. 'We wanted to get people using their human intuition when they shop for books. You can get Wi-Fi anywhere now, it’s not necessary in a bookshop'."

This is, I think, very smart. It won't be for everyone, but doing the opposite of what everybody else is doing, especially in a way that plays both to local tradition and temperament, is a great way to differentiate a business.

And, in its own way, an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: