As a customer stands in front of the Politics and Prose bookstore they can easily get a clear view inside the bookstore through the storefront windows, making it apparent all those who are passing by are warmly welcomed. Once inside, the customer is surrounded by wall to wall books: shelves of books, tables of books, displays of books… It’s almost overwhelming the supply the store has. It instantly becomes clear to the customer this is a place for exploration and knowledge; there are shelves upon shelves stacked full of books for the customer to search through.
Below is a 360 degree view of the inside of the bookstore. Feel free to click around to travel throughout the bookstore and click and drag the image to spin around.
However the customer is not left directionless and distressed; upon entering the store the customer has clear directions as to what books are where. The signs hanging from the walls, ceiling, and shelves direct customers to the particular sections offered by the bookstore. Directly to the left of the customer is “New and Recommended Fiction”, to the right, “New and Recommended Nonfiction”, and straight ahead is a staircase leading to the lower level of the bookstore where the children and teen sections, sale books section, coffee house, restrooms, and shipping and receiving department are all located. Also located downstairs is a long table where all the “book groups” meet to have their meetings. There are about 20 different book groups currently hosted by Politics and Prose, and these groups meet about once a month to discuss the current book they are reading. This is “free and open to the public”, and you don’t have to sign up to be a member, “simply read the book club’s selection and show up for the discussion”. Having these book group meetings open to the public shows how community friendly the bookstore really is; they do not discriminate based on education, class, or social status. Anyone who would like to listen in or contribute to the discussion are welcome to do so.
By positioning the “New and Recommended Fiction” and “New and Recommended Nonfiction” sections on both sides of the customer right as they enter, the bookstore provides it’s own advice on what the customer should consider reading without the customer having to look too far, or even ask an employee. This layout shouts to the customer “Here are the books we suggest you read!” right from the start of their shopping experience.
Past the stair case is a vast array of shelves and displays with books on just about anything the customer can imagine: cooking, biographies, business, politics, history, arts, science, travel and so on. With the countless number of books in a variety of subjects, the bookstore offers a read to suit just about anyone’s personal tastes.
Also located to the right and left side of the entrance are displays of cards and journals for sale. Surrounding the staircase leading to the lower level are displays of other non-book items for sale such as reading glasses, t-shirts, movies, posters, and many other miscellaneous items. I found it humorous the store offers reading glasses right upon entering the store, in case a customer realizes they forget theirs at home a new pair are just a few steps away.
I think it’s important to note here that while the store’s main focus is the selling of books, it offers a variety of items to help boost profits in order to afford the continuation of offering such a wide and vast selection to its customers. These miscellaneous non-book items along with the coffeehouse on the lower level may not bring in sky-rocketing profits, but every little bit helps.
Behind the stair case is a desk with the large sign “Information and Special Orders” hanging above it, indicating to customers any questions or concerns they may have can be addressed right at this desk. This desk is easily located and can be spotted instantly upon entering the store, so the employees are front and center to guide and assist in any way they can.
Continuing to the back of the store is a small reading area with a few lounge chairs set up, so if a customer happens upon an enticing book as they are browsing through the store they will come upon these comfy chairs in the quiet area towards the back to plop down in and begin reading. This lounge area is located away from the information desk and cash register to allow for less noise and distraction for the focused readers.
Politics and Prose offers a community space for people to come together to share and discuss books they have read or wrote. Along with the book groups hosted by the store, there are also about 400 author events hosted by the bookstore every year; this means some days the bookstore hosts more than one author a day. These events, the coffeehouse downstairs, and a small reading area located in the back of the main floor offer multiple locations for customers to sit and converse with other customers and book authors. This means Politics and Prose is not simply a store for the selling of items to make a profit, but it is also a location for information gathering, idea spreading, and opinion sharing.
Politics and Prose has found, like many other bookstores have, that this “reinvention of the bookstore as an entertaining establishment open to a nonelite audience has been a resounding success, with customers lining up for the author events, filling the cafes, and socializing in the store aisles” (Miller 222). People enjoy hearing what the inspiration was behind an author’s new best seller, discussing with other book lovers what their interpretations of certain books are and hearing the opinions of other customers on what good book to read next. What better place to find such entertainment and discussion than a place like Politics and Prose? The way in which the owners have everything situated in the store, along with the accommodations offered, such as the coffeehouse and book groups, make it clear to customers they are encouraged to not only dive into a good read, but also engage in discussion with other customers and employees.
Browsing through the shelves and displays, sitting and listening to an author or book group discussion, or relaxing in the coffeehouse deep into a good book: these are all ways in which the bookstore is able “to provide a setting that distracts customers from the cares of the world” (Miller 214). Customers of the bookstore are able to loose themselves within the confines of the store; they can enter a whole new world of their own through their imaginations or through the imaginations of others. This is the beauty of an independent bookstore like Politics and Prose; there is no rush to have the customer buy what they want and leave. The customers are free to browse around, sit down with a hot cup of coffee and a book from their favorite author, or even converse with others on this year’s “Best Sellers” list. It is obvious through what is offered inside of Politics and Prose that the owners are hoping to offer their customers a trip to the bookstore that is both leisurely and enjoyable.
(Author event picture)
(Other items for sale picture)
(Lounge area picture)
(Fiction Room picture)
(President Obama at cash register picture)
(Lower level of bookstore picture)
(Back of bookstore picture)
(History section picture)
(Looking towards entrance picture)
(New fiction display picture)
(Info on Book Groups)
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.