Bookstore Observations


I went into Waterstones today with the intention of people watching.

I found myself wandering over to my favourite genre of book (horror) meandering passed the fairytales (also a favourite) and ending up finally in front of the classics (Jane Austin fan over here!).

Finally, with my personal interests out the way, I grabbed a hot chocolate with cream and a lemon poppy muffin and perched myself on the balcony overlooking the book maze.

I took down quite a few notes regarding the way people traveled around the store. I begain noticing that people who were by themselves would often shoot off towards their favourite section. However some would end up aimlessly wandering around the shop glancing at other titles on the shelves.

There were also a lot of mothers with children, scoping out educational books and classic stories for their kids. The more matured children would often have something they wanted to buy themselves.

The elderly are very fond of books stores and I noticed a great few of them lingering about the crime and mystery sections, reading the prologues. There was one paticular couple that arrived and picked up a large book on country landscapes. The wife then sat in the only chair and began to flick through the pages, whilst the gentleman stood with his hands in his pockets rocking back and forth on his heels. He didn’t look bored, just patient.

Couples were another big theme in the bookshop. Quite often you would see them both meandering through the aisles picking up something, discussing it and putting it back. One such couple held hands as they walked through the store.

There were many other types of groups of people that came in and out the store, but these were the few that were most common. Maybe I didn’t sit long enough to get a proper taste of the day.

I went in the intent of observing peoples habits, however what I came to notice more was the environment as a whole. The shop itself was quiet. Main highstreet stores usually have music playing, they’re crowded and people are asking you if you need any help. You can be in and out of a clothes shop within minutes if nothing catches your eye.

With the book shop, I’ve noticed it’s lack of ambition. Like a library, people would automatically hush their voice. The large open spaces encouraged people to simply stroll and take their time. It’s like time slows down in a book shop. Most of the people would spend more than mere minutes meandering through the aisles. They would quite often pick up a book and sit down to flick though it’s pages.

Being in the shop made me relax. I sat on the balcony and felt no self conscious voice in my head telling me that I had spent too much time in the shop. In fact, it seemed normal to re visit the same shelves a few times.

The shop itself was nothing special. The shelves were all the same similar black and the signs that told you which genre you were looking at the simple and to the point. The shop smelt like a book shop should smell, which is coffee and paper, and the carpet was plain. The only noises were those clinks of coffee cups and soft whispers of the customers.

I think that’s entirely what a bookshop is. My experience is not all the information I need though and I’m hoping to find a library in town soon. The student library won’t have the same atmosphere I’m looking for because it’s a studious environment.

What I gained from today will be very important in the direction my project will take. I’m leaning more towards something deliberately slow, that embodies that bookshop atmosphere.

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