Entrepreneurship Writing

The customer’s — and reader’s — vision

Replied to Orderly Clutter by Peter RukavinaPeter Rukavina (

Lewis Buzbee, in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop:

“One thing is certain in the aesthetics of bookstore design: if there’s too much space, there’s not enough books, and pretty soon, customers will stop coming, and so the decline begins.”

So, right: an integral aspect of bookstores is all the books we don’t want to buy.

Makes me think of Zaid’s “personal constellations of books” that we are searching for.

Meeting customer expectations — in this case, what a customer expects a bookstore to look like — is a baseline your business needs to meet (maybe unless you are targeting a different audience or can present something amazing as an alternate). You want your business to stand out, but this probably isn’t the place to do so. Reimagining your whole genre requires a compelling vision and uderstanding the psychology behind what customers are really looking for as part of their experience.

Storytellers use these expectations/ generic visual settings to their benefit as well, adding just the particular details to polish the reader’s mental image into someplace unique. That can be one of the challenges of sci-fi, trying to make the world feel different without taking up too much space with description. The storytelling lesson here is to have a good reason why a bookshop no longer looks like a bookshop, or why bookshops no longer exist (or, why they do) — even if you don’t necessarily spell it out.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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