Comfy chairs return to Indigo bookstores a decade after their removal

"This is not a library!" has been the common admonishment from store owners who would prefer you did your reading after a purchase.

Canada caught a glimpse of what it was like when booksellers wanted people to inspect the merchandise more than a decade ago, though.

Upholstered chesterfields and sofa chairs, sometimes next to a fireplace, were a fixture of the well-appointed Chapters superstores that opened through the latter half of the 1990s. Indigo had no choice but to provide similar comfort when it emerged as a competitor.

When one company swallowed the other in 2001, browsing seats were significantly reduced at both, and customer seating was concentrated on in-store cafés, but store policy required purchase of coffee-break reading material before entry.

However, the shifting sands of the retail business has forced Indigo chief executive Heather Reisman to reverse her previous decision.

A recent feature in The Globe and Mail stated with a reduction in the amount of books being sold at Chapters and Indigo, the comfy chairs will be making a comeback.

"If you don't do something," reflected Reisman, "you're not going to be in business."

Before the e-commerce side of Indigo was challenged by the arrival of Amazon in Canada, and when e-readers like the Kindle and Kobo were still the stuff of science fiction, Reisman ensured would-be loiterers wouldn't get too comfortable.

An online campaign against the move, "Save Our Sofas," protested the move in 2002.

While the movement turned out to be a prank, it drew attention to Reisman's near-dominance of Canadian book retail, a muscle she flexed when Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was ordered off store shelves.

The seats never went away altogether, but the plush ones had started to wear out, and were replaced by a modest number of durable chairs.

Now, with greater amount of space in the superstores dedicated to gifts, housewares and toys, Reisman would rather would-be customers find more of an excuse to linger. After all, there won't be quite as much reading material to sit down and browse through.

So, it's just a matter of time before the only place viewed as a library will be an actual library.

(AFP Photo)