What makes a great bookstore?

While browsing my Twitter feed, I came across an article from Afar magazine’s website titled “Fred Dust’s Favorite Bookstores Around the World” (notice it’s Fred Dust, not Fred Durst, in case you were concerned). Afar is my all-time favorite travel magazine, and so I trust its content. However, I was fairly disappointed by what I found in the article. I don’t agree at all with the standards by which Fred Dust chose his favorite bookstores. And so I thought about it for a while and selected three factors that make a bookstore great (in my humble opinion).

They are as follows:

1. Comfy chairs for reading

When I was in high school, I used to spend a good amount of time at the Barnes & Noble near my parents’ house. I would go there to study or just to read. They had great chairs that I could curl up in and read for hours. But after a few years, much to my disappointment, the chairs disappeared and were replaced by a couple hard wooden chairs. My best guess is that they did this to prevent customers from reading the books without buying them, thus rendering the books unfit to be sold at all. This is understandable, though it’s sad that now no one can take advantage of a comfortable place to sit and read books they already own…

2. Large desks for studying or discussion

Like I mentioned before, I used to spend a lot of time studying at my local Barnes & Noble, At that time there were long desks available, so that customers could set up their computers to work for a while. The desks could also be used for groups to discuss books if they wanted to. When I took summer classes during high school I would sometimes go there with my classmates to work on homework together. Having the desks was also a great way to bring revenue to the coffee shop inside the bookstore. As far as I know the desks are still there, though maybe they’ve gone the way of the comfy chairs since last time I was there.

3. Organization that’s easy to identify

There’s nothing more annoying to me than trying to find a book in a store that’s not organized efficiently. As an example, I’ll use the Foreign Language Bookstore here in Shanghai. All the books in English are divided into three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and books about China. What makes matters even worse is that the books are arranged by the author’s first name instead of last name. Talk about maddening.  Maybe this is an extreme example, but you get the idea.

I chose these three factors in particular because they can be applied to both new and used bookstores. If I were choosing factors that apply to one or the other, the list may be a bit different.

Feel free to comment with your own ideas of what makes a great bookstore!

Also, I’d love if you’d add me on Twitter 🙂

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3 thoughts on “What makes a great bookstore?

  1. An atmosphere conducive to reading…! B&N, with their fast food music designed to irritate people right out of the store has ensured that I’ll just stay home and order from Amazon… (That, plus the fact that they have maybe just 1/5 of any author’s works in the store anymore…) ~ I don’t get it…

    • I can agree with that. I used to really enjoy B&N, but it’s gotten very reader-unfriendly in the past 5 years(ish). In fact, it’s been quite a while since I’ve found a bookstore I actually like spending a lot of time in. It’s pretty sad…

  2. I’m afraid the choice and ease of online shopping has won me over – I hardly ever visit a bookstore any more and on the rare occasion I do, they often don’t have what I’m looking for and suggest they can order it – meaning two visits,

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