For all that Pokémon Go makes its users less likely to want to use their phones for reading ebooks, it could offer a significant boost to print-book library and bookstore outreach, if used right.
Forbes has a piece looking at how local businesses are using in-game “lures” and out-of-game signs to entice Pokémon Go players into their environs. Some businesses lucky enough to be on or near one of the in-game beacons for Pokéstops or gyms have taken advantage of that proximity to provide a cozy spot for players to sit and enjoy themselves while they play their game.
The way the game is set up, players can place a “lure” on any particular Pokéstop—one of the beacons where players can get free goodies every five minutes—that cause wild Pokémon to spawn around them more often for a half hour at a time. It also has a very obvious effect on the game’s map, surrounding the Pokéstop in a shower of flower petals like pink confetti to let any nearby player know that’s where to go to find more critters. (This makes the “lure” name of the item all the more amusing, given that by luring critters, it also lures players.)
These businesses that want to welcome players in can then place signs on or outside their building saying so, and watch the business pour in. (Some criminals have already started taking advantage of this aspect of the game to lure hapless players into remote areas for easy mugging. If it works for them, it can work for legitimate businesses, too!)
Not every business is going to be lucky enough to have such a stop in its vicinity, and Niantic doesn’t yet have a way for businesses to request to become Pokéstops—but this is where libraries and bookstores have a key advantage. Pokémon’s database of object locations is imported from Ingress’s portal locations, and Ingress gave special attention to monuments, parks, public buildings, and places where people like to go—such as libraries and, frequently, bookstores. I stopped by my local library this morning, and while the portals within the building had been removed (not surprising given that the goal is to get players outside), the ones outside in close proximity to the building remain in effect. Local bookstore Indy Reads Books had an Ingress portal, too, and though I haven’t been out there yet I expect it will still be in effect. This is one time that it is actually too bad for ebooks that they don’t have a physical store location.
So, any library or bookstore with portals that wants to turn this fad to their advantage in terms of outreach could set up a display of Pokémon-related books and other media (the franchise has been around for 21 years, so you know there’s plenty of stuff out there now—and just wait ‘til all the Pokémon Go strategy guides start coming out!), put up a sign requesting players use earphones or mute their phones, and start dropping lures to make players feel welcome. It might also behoove libraries to set aside some tables in a part of their library near a gym or Pokéstop exclusively for the use of Go players (and put their display near that), in the hope of keeping them out of the way of patrons in the rest of the library (though that might not work as well for libraries that have multiple portal locations).
Of course, some libraries and bookstores might not be too pleased to be have a gaggle of Pokémon Go players getting in the way of their regular clientele—but the thing is, at least some of those players are going to come there anyway. Most Pokémon Go players I’ve seen were fairly quiet and polite, and wanted to do nothing more than sit or stand in one place and stare intently at their phones for minutes at a time; making them feel at home will be more likely to get them to reciprocate and do their best to stay out of other peoples’ way. Plus, they’re not going to be playing Pokémon Go all the time, especially after the faddish newness wears off—but they’ll remember what businesses made them feel welcome after that.
Not every business is going to welcome this new fad—indeed, it does my heart good to consider the probable impact this is going to have on those snooty coffee shops that disallow computer or e-reader use, should they be “lucky” enough to have Pokéstuff nearby. There’s a picture in the Forbes piece of a Dairy Queen with a sign up saying “Pokémon are for paying customers only.” It’s actually a fake—someone photoshopped over the word “restrooms”—but the sentiment will hold for some businesses that don’t want to be overrun by a gaggle of Pokémon players. But for places like libraries or bookstores, which can have a harder time attracting patrons as it is, this could be a window of opportunity.