You’ve heard of access control for multi-family rentals, vacation homes, and commercial buildings — but what about access control for a self-serve bookstore in the historic city of Nara, Japan? Meet Koichi Hirata, the owner of Naramachi BookSpace, which is unlike any other bookstore you’ve ever seen. By merging the charm of an old-world city with RemoteLock’s state-of-the-art access control technology, Hirata has created a unique self-serve experience for bookstore visitors while significantly reducing labor costs for his business. Read on for our brief Q&A with Hirata and for an inside look into the bookstore (and see if you can resist planning a trip to Nara right away).
When did you open Naramachi BookSpace, and what were your goals for the bookstore?
We opened in August 2018 in Nara, Japan. Nara is one of the oldest cities in the country, and it was the capital of Japan during the Nara period from 710 to 794. It’s a place rich with history and charm, so I wanted to create a bookstore that could provide that same sort of experience to visitors. Many bookstores have closed worldwide in recent years due to Amazon and online sellers, but there’s something special about visiting a bookstore that shopping online cannot provide.
My goal is to create the best of both worlds, so I designed a self-serve, unstaffed, cashless bookstore. Visitors can have the convenience and efficiency of an online shop thanks to access control and their mobile devices, but they also get that timeless bookstore experience of browsing and taking time to read and choose books without being bothered by employees.
How does the self-serve process work?
Our store has a membership system, so users who become members will receive a self-expiring PIN for each of their visits issued by RemoteLock’s access control platform. They use that PIN on the smart lock at the bookstore’s entrance, and once inside, they’re free to shop and stay for as long as they wish.
We also recruit “bookshelf owners,” which are people who provide recommendations for books that are then placed on bookshelves inside. This helps us give a sense of personalization and branding inside an unstaffed store, and it helps our visitors who may need some extra guidance while searching for a book.
When a member is ready to buy, he or she will use the iPad in the store to make a purchase. As of this year, we have 1,800 members total, and the store sees about 200 visitors on a monthly basis. A big plus for us is we’re able to greatly reduce the labor costs associated with running a bookstore since we don’t employ on-site staff.
What’s next for Naramachi BookSpace?
We’re working on building a new store that will have even better technology and perhaps even live-streaming capabilities. We’ll be using RemoteLock’s technology at this location as well, which has transformed our operations at our first location. It’s a huge benefit to our members not only for the convenience and exclusivity aspects, but also for a sense of safety and security while they’re spending time in our space.
Chrissy Priest is RemoteLock's Senior Writer and Editor and specializes in bringing complex topics in tech to life. Prior to her roles in SaaS, Chrissy worked in account management and branding at a digital agency supporting brands like ADT Security, Mr. Coffee, and Sports Authority. Inspired by the power of human potential, Chrissy’s writing helps enterprise innovators identify cutting-edge technologies capable of driving meaningful business impact.