Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

This bookshop will print your novel in the time it takes to drink a coffee


Ordering books online is convenient. But there’s something magical about wandering into a real-life bookshop, browsing the titles, and walking out with a fresh paperback in your bag, ready to be cracked open as soon as you sit down for a coffee.

Now, in a stroke of genius, a Paris bookshop is combining the two. At the Librairie des Puf in the city’s Latin Quarter, you can have a book printed for you on request – in the same time it takes to drink a coffee.

Rather than waste space storing thousands of books, most of which will never be sold, the Librairie simply holds an Espresso Book Machine. Customers use tablets to select the book they want to print, adding handwritten inscriptions if they like. The Espresso Book Machine then turns the PDF of their chosen title into a hot-off-the-press paperback in five minutes.

“The customers are all surprised,” the shop’s director, Alexandre Gaudefoy, tells the New York Times. “At first, they’re a little uncomfortable with the tablets. After all, you come to a bookshop to look at books. But thanks to the machine and the tablets, the customer holds a digital library in their hands.”


Paris's Latin Quarter, the site of the Librairie des Puf

It’s one big library, and it’s getting bigger. While customers at the Librairie aren’t yet able to choose any book in the world, they can access three million titles compiled by the company behind the Espresso Book Machine – including titles from 10 major US publishers.

They can also print any of the 5,000 books published by the University Press of France (Les Puf for short), which runs the Librairie. And thanks to Les Puf’s esteemed reputation, they’ve also persuaded other French publishers to sell PDFs of their titles through the shop.

Because it eliminates delivery and shipping costs, as well as the need for big print runs, the on-demand model is much more cost-effective – which means that that niche out-of-print title could finally be within your grasp. “We can revive old titles, which we previously hadn’t bothered with because they’d only sell five or 10 copies in a year,” says Mr Gaudefroy.

Watch: printing books on-demand is greener, cheaper - and really pretty cool

The Librairie des Puf first opened in 1921, and for decades was an iconic symbol of Parisian intellectual culture. But – like many Parisian bookshops – it was eventually defeated by the combination of sky-rocketing city centre rents and falling profits, as more and more people bought their books online. In the decade leading up to 2014, some 28 per cent of Paris’s bookstores, including the Librairie des Puf, closed for good.

But thanks to an inspiring anti-gentrification programme introduced in 2008, which rents retail spaces to cultural enterprises at affordable rates, the Librairie was able to reopen in March 2016. The concept has proved so popular that Les Puf are now considering opening self-printing bookshops in other cities around France.

There's no word yet on when British book-lovers will be able to try out the Espresso Book Machine, but readers in the UK are slowly beginning to rediscover the joys of bookshops. In London’s Spitalfields, the bookshop Libreria helps modern shoppers struggling with digital information overload by organising books according to unexpected and thought-provoking categories: “the sea and the sky”, or “enchantment for the disenchanted”, for example. Waterstone’s announced a return to profitability last year, while the app NearSt allows London shoppers to easily locate their nearest bookstore and check if their desired title is in stock.

And, in February 2016, Amazon opened its first physical store in Seattle – perhaps the biggest sign of all that we’re turning back to bookshops. 

Images: iStock



How reading for pleasure could be key to a less stressed, happier life


Judy Blume on the magic of running a bookshop


Run your own bookshop with this unique Airbnb rental


The five golden rules of dining like the French


Why France has decided to ban out-of-hour work emails

Libreria SCA 8287 - credit Iwan Baan.jpg

Look inside London’s new technology-free literary haven

Dylan Thomas Boat House.jpg

Grab a coffee, write a book: The UK’s most inspiring literary cafes


15 chic upgrades to the classic French manicure

dirty dancing.jpg

British women choose their most romantic lines from fiction and film



Harry Potter fans, there's a real-life Hogwarts - and you can attend

Excuse us, we’re just heading to Diagon Alley for school supplies…

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

Harry Potter fans, there's a Roald Dahl collaboration in the works

Are you ready for a magical Willy Wonka prequel?

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Oct 2016

Sarah Jessica Parker is launching a new line of fiction books

She’s channelling her inner Carrie Bradshaw…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Oct 2016

New Ladybird books for grown-ups are all our work woes

Old pics, new problems

by Anna Pollitt
18 Oct 2016

These are the UK’s favourite pearls of Winnie-the-Pooh wisdom

He’s far more than a bear of very little brain, you know.

by Moya Crockett
14 Oct 2016

Bridget Jones's author on life, love and the importance of friendship

“No one can have it all”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
12 Oct 2016

There's now going to be a Good Sex in Fiction award

“We have laughed enough”

by Amy Swales
12 Oct 2016

Meet the winner of Stylist’s gothic short story competition

The big short

by The Stylist web team
10 Oct 2016

9 important life lessons from cult feminist Instagram poet Rupi Kaur

Happy National Poetry Day.

by Moya Crockett
06 Oct 2016

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz to star in adaptation of Disobedience

They will bring Naomi Alderman’s debut novel to life on the silver screen

by Kayleigh Dray
05 Oct 2016