Twenty automated bookstores staffed by robots are reportedly expected to open in Beijing later this year, offering a 24-hour-a-day service.
China's largest bookselling franchise Xinhua opened the first of the planned stores last month in the southeast district of Tongzhou, according to the Beijinger. Featuring an automated system with no regular human employees, the 24-hour bookstores are planned to be built at universities, government offices and shopping centres in the Chinese capital.
The Xinhua Lifestyle Store requires all customers to register their real names using their WeChat accounts, a Chinese social media platform, and have their faces scanned before entering. Through storing all users’ purchasing information, the store can offer "precise and humanised" book suggestions to all of its customers, with robot 'staff' touted as a "key feature of the store".
The general manager of the Xinhua Lifestyle Store, Nian Xiaolei, said: "We should use practical actions to provide rich spiritual sustenance for the public to live a good life". He believes that his automated bookstore provides Tongzhou with a "bright future."
The 20 planned 24-hour staffless bookstores are the latest wave in Beijing's recent building boom of both bookstores and automated stores, according to the Beijinger.
Staffless convenience stores and supermarkets are becoming more common around the city, while around half of the 3,000 new convenience stores expected to open in Beijing before 2020 will offer 24-hour service, according to the newspaper.