On Wednesday, Barnes & Noble opened one of its prototype bookstores in Columbia, Md. The store, which is latest in a series of prototype locations, is 17,000 sq.-ft., down from a typical footprint of 26,000 sq.-ft.

It will stock 35,000 titles and features contemporary design touches, including warm-hued oak book shelves, and USB and electricity ports at tables in the café area. At the center of the store are two large “book theaters” which offer customers a 360-degree, in-the-round browsing experience.

Booksellers at the store will be equipped with tablet computers to facilitate immediate customer service. The store will also offer self-service kiosks that will allow customers to search for books. Non-book items for sale include vinyl records and turntables, games and gift items.

“We’ve learned a great deal from each new store we’ve opened over the past few years," said Carl Hauch, v-p of stores for Barnes & Noble. He went on, noting that the Columbia store "represents a culmination of what we’ve learned so far.”

In a meeting with PW, representatives from B&N said the company plans to open five prototype stores in the fiscal year that ends next April, and will settle on a final concept in 12-18 months.