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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bookstore Reinvented In London

LONDON -- Whether you want to surf the net, browse for novels, or just drink a cup of coffee, you can do it all at a mega-bookshop just opened by leading British bookseller Waterstones.


But the emphasis will be heavily on books, which, even in the Internet age, remain remarkably resilient as a cheap, portable form of entertainment, said Alan Giles, Waterstones' managing director.


He believes browsing or buying books can be just as enjoyable as reading them, which is why Waterstones' new store offers sofas, cafes and an events area for author talks, signings and readings.


Although not quite as big as rival Dillons' flagship store in London, the shop in the Scottish city of Glasgow is four times the size of a typical Waterstones and carries 150,000 titles, two thirds more than usual.


Giles said Waterstones is trying to reinvent British bookselling via the Glasgow shop. "I think that buying books is more like a leisure activity," he said. "Like going out for a meal or going to a gallery rather than going shopping."


The new-style shop echoes a trend in North America, where chains such as Barnes & Noble have opened vast superstores.


According to Giles, Barnes & Noble says its sales increase by 80 percent every time it opens a superstore. But he is not expecting such huge growth. "Certainly we would hope that perhaps as much as 30 percent of sales we achieve would be incremental," he said.


Dillons also offers coffee and access to the Internet in some stores, but is not currently planning a "lifestyle" shop like Waterstones in Glasgow.


The Glasgow branch has a basement cafe, a roving coffee cart, an Internet cafe on the top floor and computer terminals with access to a Waterstones' intranet where browsers can search through one million titles.


Founded in 1982 by Tim Waterstone, retailer W.H. Smith Group plc bought the business in 1989 and Giles took over in 1992.


Giles said Waterstones opened a website last year offering a relatively narrow range of books, but realized this was uncompetitive against some of the American retailers. The site will be relaunched shortly, offering more than one million British books in print.