The news of the opening of unstaffed bookstores in Beijing provoked Robert Gray into a round-up article at Shelf Awareness of 16 March 2018. His piece entitled “Bullet Points & Robot Booksellers — A Collage” may be found at his blog Fresh Eyes Now. Mr Gray includes a link to the story of poor Fabio, a Pepper robot, who was fired after only one week in Margiotta’s, an upmarket foodstore in Edinburgh. Let’s hope this means that we humans can hope that our days as bookstore assistants are not numbered (yet. Or not numbered with too small a number anyway.)

I almost think I’d prefer there to be at least one robot in Amazon’s NYC bricks-and-mortar store. The couple of humans on staff were so tied up with checkout that you’d have to stand on line just to ask if there’s a copy of a particular book in the shop. I just left, and went the next day to Three Lives (who didn’t have it either). I guess for a book shop to keep its inventory showing on-line might be a cost, but I do think that this may be an important thing to do. Sure I can call and ask, but I don’t. Nowadays, when we are all used to being able to order on-line right away, it’s surely dangerous to cede the on-line check-up arena to Amazon. Set up an inventory listing, link it somehow to your cash register (for deletions) and your order entry system (for additions) and bingo, there’s a list of everything you have. Even when I’m in the store I could check this listing rather than “wasting” the time of an assistant, but most importantly I can see at home if it’s worthwhile getting on the subway and visiting you to get it. That’s more or less what these Chinese bookstore robots are doing anyway, isn’t it?