Back in 1999, Parisians were sad to see publisher Les Presses Universitaires de France (PUF) close its iconic bookshop on Place de La Sorbonne. Now, more than 15 years later, the bookshop is back. The only catch? The books it’s selling don’t exist yet.
Visitors to PUF’s new location find themselves in a small 775-square foot space. There are books on the walls, but none of them are for sale. That’s because PUF is an all-digital bookstore, and doesn’t stock any kind of physical inventory.
But that doesn’t mean that PUF’s visitors don’t leave with any physical purchases. According to AP, the store uses an incredible device called the Espresso Book Machine to print books for customers while they wait. The process only takes a few minutes, and customers can pass the time by sipping tea or coffee, which the shop also sells.
It’s a unique concept. PUF general manager Frederic Meriot calls the store “the first all-digital bookshop in Europe that sells books on demand only.” There are only five Espresso Book Machines in all of France, and only one is being used in such a unique bookshop.
It’s a new way to shop, but an old way to read. “At an equivalent price all readers, even among the young generations, prefer paper to digital,” Meriot says (and he’s right). So far, the shop has been a hit. With 5,000 PUF publications and 3 million titles from other publishers available through On Demand Books (the company behind the Espresso Book Machine), there’s plenty to sell, and customers are lining up. On the store’s first day, it sold 60 books – four times what Meriot says he has to sell to break even.
All images courtesy of AP Photo/Francois Mori