No workers, no worries at bookstore


Yang Jun,Zhao Yimeng
Monday 04 July 2022 10:44 BST
The 24-hour smart bookstore run by Xinhua Bookstore in the Touqiao community in Guiyang, Guizhou province
The 24-hour smart bookstore run by Xinhua Bookstore in the Touqiao community in Guiyang, Guizhou province (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Gaining access via a facial recognition system, reading free of charge and paying for items at the self-service checkout are among the novel experiences awaiting visitors to the first unstaffed, 24-hour smart bookstore in Guiyang, Guizhou province.

The store in the Touqiao community belongs to the State-owned chain Xinhua Bookstore, and in addition to selling books, it also serves as a library of sorts. Customers are encouraged to stay and read as long as they want, although they cannot take anything home unless it is bought.

The 240-square-yard bookstore has nearly 10,000 books on a variety of topics that appeal to all ages. There is a children’s activities area near the entrance, which is separated from the tranquil reading zone further inside.

Since there is no one on site, supervision and security is handled by remote monitoring and alarms.

“We keep an eye on the bookstore from a control room off-site,” said the store manager Wang Ying. “As soon as we detect an emergency, such as a problem with the locks, we rush to the scene to handle it.”

Wei Jingran, Xinhua Bookstore’s operating director in Guizhou, said the new shop has greatly reduced labour costs. “It also doesn’t have to close, providing a continuous reading space for residents.”

A visitor reads in the store’s reading zone
A visitor reads in the store’s reading zone (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Since the store opened on April 23, 2022, it has attracted hundreds of customers a day. Most are nearby residents who are attracted by its convenience and quiet atmosphere.

Chen Wentao, 28, a video game enthusiast, said he has developed a new reading habit as a result of visiting the shop.

“I found inquiries from shop assistants at normal bookstores bothersome and felt pressured. Here, I have no concerns. I am free to pick up a book and immerse myself. Unlike with video games, reading brings me a sense of peace in this fast-paced life.” Of late he has been reading a novel in the store, he said.

A number of retirees have also been enjoying it. Luo Yinfeng, 69, who has been an avid reader since childhood, is one. “I usually come to the bookstore to relax after I finish exercising in the afternoon. It only takes me a few minutes to walk here.”

The store’s technology has been designed to cater to seniors who may have trouble dealing with automation. The self-service checkout procedure is simple, and the characters on the interface are large and easy to read, Wang said.

Guo Bin, an official of Touqiao community, said the bookstore is part of its “15-minute living circle project”, which looks to improve lives by installing infrastructure such as businesses, parks and public transportation residents can access within a 15-minute walk from home.

Wei echoed Guo’s remarks, saying that the pursuit of social benefits was behind the store’s creation. He sees it as a convenient service to residents that also promotes Xinhua Bookstore.As e-commerce and e-books become more popular, the time-honoured brand is exploring new ways to turn a profit.

Speaking of future plans for smart bookstores, Wei said Xinhua plans to analyse reading habits and preferences based on data collected with customer permission to better tailor book offerings to tastes.

As it continues to improve its unstaffed service experience, Guizhou Xinhua Bookstore opened two more smart bookstores.

“Next we will focus on promoting unstaffed bookstores by turning them into new local landmarks and popularising them on the internet,” Wei said.

Wang Jin and Zhu Yongling contributed to this story.

Previously published on

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in