In the Future, Everything Will Be a Coffee Shop

Linux Caffe Toronto
CC BY 2.0. Linux Caffe Toronto/ Cory Doctorow

Jason Kottke points to a post by Steven Gordon of the Speculist , who writes that In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop. It is an interesting point, and may mark a possible reversal of the trends we have seen toward the big box in the suburbs, and a possible revitalization of our main streets. Gordon lists some of the institutions that are going through a trend toward "coffeeshopification."

my students at Ryerson

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Universities Will Become Coffee Shops

The traditional university lecture is a completely anachronistic institution; there is no reason my Ryerson University students couldn't watch my lectures on their computers at home or in a coffee shop. Most do; rarely more than 50% of the class shows up, because they know I post the lectures on the school website. As you can see in the photo above, even the students that show up have their noses in their computers. It is all a silly leftover from the days before books were printed and were too expensive for students, so the lecturer would stand up at the front and read from them. The reason for showing up these days is for, as Gordon notes, to "seek tutoring, network, and socialize."- pretty much a big coffee shop.


The late, lamented Bookery, coffee to the left. /Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Bookstores Will Become Coffee Shops

Many already are. But as e-books gain in popularity and print-on-demand machines become more common, they may well become a lot smaller. Gordon writes:

Between ebooks and print-on-demand, Barnes and Noble-sized stores shrink down to just their coffee shops – or maybe Starbucks takes over their business. Either way, customers keep the experience of reading with coffee and those big comfortable chairs.
Unto this last

Unto This Last/Screen capture

Retail Stores Will Become Coffee Shops

Gordon did most of his Christmas shopping online, getting better selection without fighting crowds. He also notes the trend that I go on about, the 3D printshop that is coming to your main street soon.

Which is more enjoyable: Starbucks or Walmart? For the sane: Starbucks. So if you can accomplish your Walmart shopping at Starbucks, why do it any other way?
Also, imagine the 3D print shop of the future. You put in your order, probably from your smart phone, and then go pick it up. What does the lobby of such a business look like? Again: a coffee shop.

This is already happening; London's Unto This Last, shown above, prints out your furniture to order from their little high street shop. Look at the interior here; throw in a Gaggia and you have the model.

Edward Lloyd's Coffee Shop

National Maritime Museum/Public Domain

Offices Become Coffee Shops… Again

That is, after all, where they started, in Edward Lloyd's Coffee Shop in the 17th century.

The need for offices grew as the equipment for mental work was developed starting in the late 19th centuries. That need appears to have peaked about 1980. It was a rare person who could afford the computers, printers, fax machines, and mailing/shipping equipment of that time.
Now a single person with $500 can duplicate most of those functions with a single laptop computer. So the remaining function of the office is to be that place that clients know to find you... and that kids and the other distractions of home can’t.

Or, as I have often put it, you can go further and say that your office is in your pants. In fact, the major purpose of an office now is to interact, to get around a table and talk, to schmooze. Just what you do in a coffee shop.

Rustic Owl

Rustic Owl, Toronto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

In fact for many people, the coffee shop already is the office; in Toronto's newRustic Owllast week there was an open macbook on almost every table. The office becomes more like a coffee shop and the coffee shop more like an office every day. Stephen Gordon is really on to something with this analogy. More at the Speculist