Beijing has a new 24-hour human-free robot bookstore

A shop of one’s own.
A shop of one’s own.
Image: AP Photo/Xinhua,Xie Huanchi
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At a tiny new bookstore in Beijing, you can find yourself something to read at any time of the day or night, without the encumbrance of human interaction. You just have to get a quick face scan first.

On Jan. 12, a convenience-store-cum-bookshop opened in Beijing’s International Book City. The store is open 24 hours a day, and has a robot cashier in lieu of human staff. Xinhua plans to open a total of 20 similar bookstores this year, according to state-run China Daily (link in Chinese).

Customers enter their WeChat account details and get their faces scanned before entering, and the store offers “precise and humanized” book suggestions based on their purchase histories. Though this isn’t the first fully automated store in Beijing, it is the first such bookstore, says China Daily.

The 320-square-foot space stretches the limit of what constitutes a bookstore, with a slim selection of books and plenty of shelf space allotted to succulents, Snickers, Coke, and Pocky snacks. The selection includes Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs and Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem.

But as the Beijinger points out, if a reader can just wait until regular business hours, she’d have access to a vast selection of books in the ginormous book mall, reportedly Asia’s largest bookstore.