Bookstores are for browsing, not selfies
The number of bookstores in Beijing has risen in recent years thanks to government support and growing public demand.
A search for a bookstore on a social media platform produces many results for cafes and bars offering books for people to read as they enjoy their drinks.
Internet searches also turn up a number of niche bookstores that attract large numbers of visitors with their stylish decor and design.
People are clearly opting for a new environment in which to read or buy books.
However, many are visiting these stylish bookstores just to post online photographs of themselves reading or having coffee.
One bitterly cold weekend last year, I went to the PageOne bookstore south of Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, an area where many restaurants are located.
The store was full of people taking selfies as they wandered among the bookshelves.
As it was extremely crowded and noisy, I left after just a few minutes.
There is nothing wrong in bookshops being popular and modern, but I believe it is sad when they are favored because of their decor and architectural design.
It’s also sad that people view these stores as sightseeing spots, rather than places to read.
Even sadder is the fact that a really good bookstore can be stocked with quality titles, but fails to attract many potential customers because it is not fashionable or doesn’t serve coffee.
People enjoy beauty, which I fully understand.
So, where better than a bookstore for people to enjoy beauty?
OK, perhaps art galleries, exhibitions and parks, with their terrific natural surroundings.
I once interviewed the owner of a private bookstore, who said he could not make a profit only by selling books. He also sells food and drink. The store, which focuses on literature, continues to provide quality reading material, and the owner has not promoted the business by using its architecture or decor. He has kept his focus firmly on books.
Hopefully, the people who take selfies by using books purely as a backdrop can find other locations for their activities.