Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore Infuses Old-School Style into a Modern In-Store Experience

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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In the age of online retail, brick-and-mortar stores can no longer conduct business as usual and expect to thrive. New multi-sensory experiences are important to bring customers back into physical stores and leave a lasting impression that keeps them coming back for more.

No one understands this better than Shakespeare & Co., an old school bookstore that has resided in Manhattan’s Upper East Side for over twenty years, serving as a sanctuary for customers who want to read, write, and purchase locally roasted coffee from the cafe. Though nostalgic in its offerings and overall design, Shakespeare & Co. is no stranger to innovative technology experiences; they are well-known for their espresso book machine that can print books on the spot in the same amount of time it takes to make an espresso.


With the opening of the retailer’s first location outside of Manhattan, New York, in Center City Philadelphia – a space only two blocks away from their competitor Barnes & Noble - they wanted to build an experience that activated all of their customer’s senses. They looked for an innovative solution that allowed them to build upon their existing in-store experience, while still aligning perfectly with their classic brand.

Shakespeare & Co. decided to amplify in-store engagement by adding a Split Flap Display from Oat Foundry, an old-school train station flicker board that can be easily controlled and automated through a web-based app. They seamlessly integrated the display into the coveted espresso book machine to weave the two disparate technologies together and create one cohesive experience.


Resembling an industrial printer, the printing press (a 3D printer) uses recycled paper to produce bookstore-quality paperback books to order in the same amount of time that it takes to brew an espresso. For just $15.99, customers can simply hop on over to the machine easily print out a book not available in hardcopy in a matter of minutes.

Sitting right above the book printer in their new Philadelphia location, the flicker board showcases the title of the book currently printing in real time. The display’s familiar “clacking,” reminiscent of an old train station of years past, creates a moment of anticipation as customers look on and wait for the display to reveal which book the machine is printing next. With the built-in custom API, the display is able to track the total number of books printed globally by the brand, automatically updating the information to the display.


Shakespeare & Co.’s new display preserves their heritage as a classic brand, while engaging the senses of its customers. They can see the flaps changing, hear them in motion, and smell the coffee brewing.

“From a functional standpoint, the Split Flap offers a dynamic way to display the cumulative number of books printed on our machines worldwide, and individual titles printed in real time,” said Shakespeare & Co. CEO Dane Neller. “From an experiential standpoint, the Split Flap is both entertaining and informative, engaging our patrons with the book printing technology.”