Even if it’s been years, you can still recall the experience of walking into your local library. The sliding double doors open before you, the wind billows through your hair, and the musk of old books surrounds you as you strut to the front desk to coolly ask where one might find PN.55.H8.1970. It’s an experience complete with a whole cast of smells, sights and touches, and it’s one that La Librairie des Puf has recently abandoned, opting instead for printers that give you titles in a matter of minutes.
Image courtesy of Lefigaro
La Librairie des Puf, simply dubbed Les Puf, is a bookstore nestled in the trendy Latin Quarter of Paris. Once home to several floors of books in the mid 20th century, the shop is now only some 80 square meters big, equipped with a printer rather than shelves of books. The Espresso Book Machine, manufactured by the American company On Demand Books, can mull through reams of paper in roughly five minutes. Through several dispersed tablets, customers can select the titles they want to print and sip their coffees as the machine whirs to life, transforming PDF’s into paperbacks right before their eyes.
Here’s how it works:
“At first, they’re a little uncomfortable with the tablets,” shop director Alexandre Gaudefroy told The New York Times earlier this week. “After all, you come to a bookshop to look at books. But thanks to the machine and the tablets, the customer holds a digital library in their hands.”
With endless titles available at the tips of reader’s fingers via downloadable PDF’s and other online formats, Les Puf recognizes a reader’s need for immediate access. For the Parisian shop, staying afloat – and being a viable business for that matter – means modernizing their approach. If readers aren’t taking the time to laze around the shop, flipping through real pages, at least they can swing by to grind a few reams through the machine and leave with their very own thousand-page copy of Atlas Shrugged.
Admittedly, it’s a bit of a heart breaker to see the hardcovers go and the PDF’s take their place, but the important thing is that easy access incentivizes readers. Furthermore, publishers aren’t printing excessive amounts of copies. Only what is demanded is given, suggesting the printers may be a greener alternative to traditional printing.
Les Puf, which was forced to close its doors along with so many others in the past decade, has finally been able to reopen this past March, albeit reincarnated with a techie twist. The shop’s resurgent popularity is partially accounted for by the new machinery, but has been buoyed by a recent increase in paperback sales – a notable first in roughly a decade. Les Puf has capitalized on the return of book buyers with its recent innovation, proving adaptive in the increasingly complex climate of book buyers. Even in the face of industry giants like Amazon, which has also turned to brick and mortar shops, bookstores are finding ways to recruit their readers back from the interwebs.
Amazon may be able to ship you your reads with jet-pack speed, but can it print your favorite book in five minutes? We think bookstores still got it.
Featured image courtesy of Retail Detail.