This morning, my local Tesco appears to have gone entirely automated overnight, with no staff on tills. Everything is now operated by card and machine – leading to the first really spectacular nicking spree I’ve seen, when a young man legged it from the store with a trolley of booze. The staff looked on, bored, then forgot about it.
Perhaps bookshops will become automated. Or perhaps they can start planning new ways of making money. Why aren’t bookstalls gathered in central locations instead of being scattered about cities? It’s a browsing activity that works better when there’s a bigger choice, and rents would be easier to negotiate. Plus, bookstalls are great levellers.
And why do middle-class bookshops exude such an air of arrogance? One of my neighbours tells me she uses Amazon instead of bookstores because ‘they can’t judge what I read’.
Silly as it sounds, I know what she means. There are bookshops I avoid for precisely that reason. My reading range is broad and I’m likely to buy a David Mitchell, a Kate Atkinson and a Viz annual at the same time. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, it’s what I want to read. But there can be a dreadful air of piety in bookshops. It’s why the comedy series ‘Black Books’ was so funny.
So perhaps – partiularly for the young – automation removes the perception that you’re being judged, and that applies to music and movies too.