The Bookstore in the Digital Era. Embedded experience

Hey guys.

New post today about an innovative retail concept in Paris.

The PUF (this acronym stands for “Presses Universitaires de France” that can be translated into “University Publishing House”) have recently opened a new generation bookshop. And what I am talking about now is a breakthrough innovation, not just a new interior design.





What is it all about ?

A bookshop where you first pick-up a book online before getting it printed on site in a few minutes. Really cool huh ?

First, let’s take a quick look at the place.

Classical and decent facade. Looks like the cliché of the french bookshop.




Inside, the room is really tiny (around 20 sqm) but neat and clean. Some books are displayed on shelves and a cosy coffee place has been designed to give a welcoming atmosphere.












A reception desk is located in the middle. You can order your coffee here.


The innovative stuff is located in a second secluded room : the copy machine that turns your digital book file into a real printed book.












In this room (a corridor I may say) you can find a TV screen with videos about books and authors. A quick fix of culture before your book is ready. Smart.





Step 1 : you browse the PUF website on a tablet




Step 2 : you pick up a book. I decided to buy a book about Freemasonry.


Step 3 : I found it funny to add an extra text on the first page. Nice when you want to give a present.


4/ Step 4 : I validated my order. The file is sent to the copy machine. 5 short minutes to wait.


5/ Step 5 : Here is my baby. Warm and nice.


6/ Step 6 : The book is mine.


The customized text makes it more personal


The print quality is OK.


I paid (I treated myself with a coffee)




My visit to “Librairie des PUF” was extremely insightful. I found there a new striking example of something I deeply believe in : strategy, even the most brillant one, is not sufficient. What matters and really makes a difference is execution. Because the customer only sees execution.


And I am afraid that Librairie PUF got it wrong.

Let me make my point :

  • PUF idea is brilliant. Fantastic. A breakthrough innovation in the bookstore business (even though Shakespeare and Company in NYC has already paved the way) We can already imagine that, thanks to this copy machine, bookstores operators won’t need large and costly retail premises anymore. And no more extensive staff. Everything is made possible a clic away. And delivery takes 5 minutes, a delivery time that even Amazon would dream about.
  • For now, the product range is still quite narrow. But if the business model proves its relevance, many editors would join the service.

Nonetheless, the PUF Bookshop I visited is not up to the innovation. Least I can say. 

I pointed out many weaknesses :

  • The facade. Do you want to really feel the experience of the new digital era bookshop ? A kick ass store ? Too bad. PUF has designed a store that looks like exactly the same as a old fashioned bookstore. There is no (I mean zero) information on the storefront saying that something innovative is going on inside. You can’t even see the copy machine through the storefront.





  • The  branding. “La librairie des PUF” is too generic. No innovation teasing whatsoever.
  • The store layout :  the copy machine should be showcased in the store but unfortunately it is almost hidden from customers. Hey PUF are you ashamed of your machine ?
  • The purchasing process doesn’t bring excitement. It is functional but not fun. On top of that there is no signage that would explain how to buy your book autonomously. I found the tablet screens way too small and not stable enough on their tripods. Beautiful large iMacs would have been greatly appreciated instead.
  • The lack of ambition of the  coffee place. As you need to wait while your book is printed, a warm and comfortable coffee place would be key to the customer experience. Moreover, the screen with videos about books should be located in that coffee place and not in the room nearby the machine. By the way, self service tablets would have done a better job than this TV set.
  • This bookshop should deliver a great digital experience. I was disappointed that the Wifi was not connecting automatically. A boring password was necessary. And of course you have to ask for it to the staff.


  • I was expecting a mobile app instead of these tablets. I could have bought my book relaxing on a comfortable chair sipping a capuccino.


Let’s wrap it up.

To make the most out of this innovation,  I do believe that it should be operated by hospitality professionals instead of bookstores brands. It is a question of mindset.

I wrote a post about a parisian cafe that already propose this service to its customers. OK it is not really well operated either but it is an interesting move. My post Here 

In the near future, I think that hospitality leaders such as Starbucks would be interested to bring this service to their salons. It would be an a opportunity to generate extra sales while offering value for money.

Traffic pullers such as shopping malls, airports or train stations should also be interested. I can easily imagine this service in upscale rest areas.