I went to the unmanned bookstore ”Hontas Tameike Tameike-Sanno Metropia Store” that opened on September 26th near Tokyo Metro Tameike-Sanno Station. At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make manned stores financially viable even in and around train stations in urban areas, I can understand the idea of reducing the number of bookstores in depopulated areas by unmanning them, and the unmanned bookstores themselves are already irreversible. It’s probably the flow. However, my first impression of Hontasumeike was, to put it simply, a huge disappointment.
Although it is unreasonable to expect a wide selection of products from a bookstore that is only 15 tsubo in size, it has not yet narrowed down the target group to which it is trying to appeal, and there are business books, comics, literary books, practical books, and magazines. I was left with the impression that it was a ”large kiosk” with stationery lined up in a jumbled manner.
However, there are some aspects of the product lineup that could be improved through operation. But a more fundamental question came to mind. This is because when I actually picked up the book in the store, I noticed something strange. The books displayed in this store are a mix of books that can be read while standing and books that cannot be read.
In the first place, labels like Kodansha Bunko that are shrink-wrapped cannot be browsed at other stores. However, at Hontasumeike, even if the books are not shrink-wrapped, most of the books have a unique sticker pasted on the edge of the book to make it impossible to open them. I bought 3 random paperback books to celebrate the store’s opening, but they were completely different: one was shrink-wrapped (Kodansha Bunko), one had a sticker pasted (Bunshun Bunko), and one was as (Kadokawa Bunko).
One of the few advantages of physical bookstores over online bookstores is that you can pick up the actual book, but if you can simply “pick it up” but cannot view the contents, electronic books that allow you to “browse”. The user experience is probably inferior to e- book. In order to enter the store, you need to register as a friend on LINE, and when you enter and exit you are required to present your membership card using a QR code (in other words, your personal information is obtained), but you cannot even check the contents of the book inside the store. In that case, what is the point of going to such a bookstore?
By the way, on the day I visited, Hontasumeike was not deserted. Several staff members were always on hand to explain how to enter the store, and they were also calling people in. However, there is little interest from passers-by, and few people stop to listen. Therefore, the inside of the store was literally ”unmanned” for a long time.
As the foundations of publishing distribution are fundamentally crumbling, various people and companies are searching for the future of bookstores. Many large bookstores have already introduced unmanned cash registers, in line with the shift toward unmanned cash registers throughout the retail industry. Completely unmanned stores will become widespread in the near future. However, if at that time the streets were filled with shops like ”Hontasumeike,” people would become increasingly ”away from bookstores.”