Since its beginning in July of 1994 people have said Amazon would put booksellers (and eventually printers) out of business. Well, against all odds, it hasn’t happened. And with people like us out there, we don’t expect it to happen anytime soon, or ever.
But Katherine C. predicted a new trend that’s now here (check out her masters thesis from 2012 about how digital brands would do well to present their brands in physical space). Since 2015 Amazon has been experimenting in brick and mortar retail by opening physical stores. There are seven open locations (NYC, Seattle, San Diego, Portland, Chicago, and in Lynnfield and Dedham, Massachusetts) with six more opening in 2017. And last week Katherine C. visited the Chicago location. There are more than a few things that make this store very different from other bookstores…
- All books are rated 4 stars or above from Amazon.
- The shelves and books are all organized according to algorithm (Amazon bestsellers mostly).
- The book are all displayed covers-out, it takes up more space but allows for a more fluid experience.
- Shelves are categorized based on online data, “Hotly debated on Amazon,” “Books Kindle Readers Finish in 3 Days or Less,” “Children’s Bestsellers,” etc.
- The shop keeps their supplies limited, offering less than 100 fiction titles.
- There’s an electronics section to showcase Amazon electronics (Kindles, and the Echo).
- All Amazon Prime members get Prime pricing by simply scanning
a QR code at checkout and selecting your payment option.
But here’s what we think…. this isn’t the place you go to find a book. Odds are they won’t have what you’re looking for and you’d be better off browsing at your local shop.
What is the Amazon books shop good for? Well it is the kind of place you come to to learn what good books others are reading, what’s popular with the YA crowd, which cookbooks are getting the best feedback, the best children’s books for every age group, and the most useful pregnancy or parenting resource books.
It’s like walking into a store built on yearbook superlatives. Sure, it’s fun to see who’s most popular, and who was voted “class clown,” but it’s not necessarily a place where everyone will find what they’re looking for. It’s more the experience of walking into a brick and mortar Amazon space that’s fun and interesting. but we don’t think it’s anywhere close to putting your local shop out of business.
There’s a great New Yorker article about the latest NYC Amazon store that put it best:
“It is reminiscent of an airport bookshop: big enough to be enticing from the outside but extremely limited once you’re inside… The store’s biggest shortcoming, though, is that it is so clearly not intended for people who read regularly. I normally walk into a bookstore and shop the way a person might shop for clothes: I know what I like, what generally works for me, what new styles I might be ready to try. It was a strange feeling, on Thursday, to do laps around a bookstore without feeling a single unexpected thrill. There were no wild cards, no deep cuts, no oddballs—just books that were already best-sellers, pieces of clothing I knew wouldn’t fit me or that I already owned.“