Today Amazon opened its first ever brick-and-mortar bookstore. The store is in Seattle (home of Amazon.com) and has a unique set-up that makes it the very first of its kind.
The books are displayed face-out on the shelves to display their covers (much like browsing an online store), and each book also has a card with ratings and reviews from Amazon.com on display underneath. The ratings and reviews from Amazon’s online store will determine which books they stock in the physical store. So it’s literally like an online bookstore made physical. You can see pictures of what this all looks like right here.
This is a very interesting development for Amazon and bookselling in general. There has been much talk about the future of publishing and Amazon’s effect on the industry, which is NOT what this post will be about. With the Hatchett debacle last year, I think many people are kind-of tired of hearing about that topic. If you want to read a fantastic article about Amazon’s history and relationship to the publishing industry, read this article from Vanity Fair. It’s lengthy, but very comprehensive and well-written. Naturally with the opening of this new store, people are talking about the topic again. (Wired’s headline was “Amazon Killed the Bookstore So It’s Opening a Bookstore.”) But instead of going on a rant about that, I’d rather just quickly post some thoughts about the new store.
First of all, let me say that I never buy books from Amazon. I do not have a Kindle; I have a Nook, and all of my online book purchases are through Barnes & Noble. The only time I purchased books on Amazon was during college, because textbooks tend to be cheaper there, and you can especially find cheap used textbooks from the secondary sellers who use Amazon. (Also, students got free Prime subscription, so that helped.) I am all in favor of the fact that Amazon has brought book availability to places that didn’t have brick-and-mortar bookstores available and for the wonderful things they have done for self-published authors. But when it comes to average book buying, I am loyal to independent sellers as well as Barnes & Noble. Why? I will admit that I am troubled by the way Amazon has been treating publishing companies, but it’s also because physical bookstores are just so much better and so darn important. The human interaction with booksellers, the browsing/finding-something-new factor, handling the books, not waiting for shipping, the smell…you can’t argue that physical bookstores are the best.
But anyway, back to the new Amazon bookstore. For one, I’d love to go see it. I find the way the store is set up to be very intriguing, and as someone who appreciates a unique bookstore, I think the experience would be unlike any other bookstore experience I’ve had (and I’ve been in bookstores with chickens that run around). So for that reason I’d love to visit it just to see how it would feel to essentially walk around inside a digital bookstore. Would I be drawn to the same areas I usually am? Would I be disappointed in the selection? Would the setup have any sort of influence on what I purchase? The answers to all these questions would most likely be “yes,” but I’m still very interested to see it.
Ultimately I don’t think this new bookstore is going to make any sort of change in the way we buy books – even if Amazon bookstores pop up in major cities all over the country (which has not been confirmed or denied as of yet). Because the Amazon bookstore is basically a physical version of their digital store, I don’t see the point in actually shopping at one. They will only be stocking bestsellers, they will feature the same books in the store as on their website…the only reasons to physically go there rather than buy from the website would be the lack of shipping and the Kindle section, where you will be able to test the Kindles before you buy them. The more I think about it, the more silly the idea of a physical Amazon bookstore sounds, especially with the set-up they have.
Am I interested? Yes. Do I think it’s a good idea? I don’t think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s a pointless one. What the Amazon bookstore is doing is creating an in-between type of bookstore that isn’t your traditional brick-and-mortar store, but also isn’t digital. And I really don’t see the value in a store like that.
…but I’ll definitely check it out if I’m ever in Seattle.