Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years (which is fine, we don’t judge), you know what Amazon is. No, not the rainforest. I’m talking about that giant online retailer that now sells just about everything for a fraction of the cost. You know, free shipping with Amazon Prime? Never-have-to-leave-your-house shopping? Sometimes referred to as the death of all things good in the world? Yeah, them.
Well it turns out Amazon is out there making moves and changing the game for booksellers once again. Since Amazon began selling books online for significantly lower prices, traditional bookstores have taken quite the hit. The market has been especially hard on small, independently owned stores, but even the big guys, like Barnes & Noble, have been struggling. Remember Borders? Rest in peace.
So what’s Amazon up to now? You may have heard some buzz about their brand new brick-and-mortar bookstore, called Amazon Books, that opened in Seattle in early November. I know, right? Why would this electronic giant need a physical bookstore? There are several reasons of course, but we can probably attribute the move primarily to sales.
Amazon’s Kindle has been its pride and joy, and paved the way for their other media technology like the Fire TV Stick. But according to Forbes, Kindle sales were down last holiday season, and it would seem that, despite the rise of the ebook, millennials still have a thing for reading in print.
Enter Amazon Books. The Seattle-based store is meant to give shoppers a more traditional book-buying experience. They’ve got an open, but cozy floor plan and put a huge emphasis on the books, leaving almost every cover facing out as opposed to simply showing off the spines. There are nooks and crannies where shoppers can sit down to read and the whole store is nestled in the heart of University Village — perfect for millennials. And that’s not to mention the fact that all books are priced the same as they would be on Amazon’s website, an even bigger bonus for young, financially frugal individuals.
But of course, this isn’t just your typical bookstore. I mean, it’s Amazon, so there has to be a catch somewhere, right? One shopper described the store as a sort of bookstore meets Best Buy situation, explaining that Amazon Books isn’t just a place for the company to sell books, but also somewhere they can show off their electronic offerings as well. The store boasts several displays where shoppers can try out Kindles or Fire TV Sticks in-store. There’s even a seating area lined with Amazon Fire tablets, each preloaded with magazines for shoppers to browse through.
Amazon is also using their online origins to their advantage, using user reviews, ratings, and sales data to predict what books to stock. Not bad if fewer books end up pulped, right? A rating out of five stars and a selected review from Amazon.com is placed in front of each title for the convenience of shoppers.
But none of this tech stuff really seems too outlandish, except for maybe one glaring exception. There’s not a single price listed throughout the store. Huh? Instead, the store encourages customers to download the Amazon app, which they can then use to scan the books they’re interested in and determine the prices. Customers without a smartphone can use one of the store’s kiosks for the same results.
I don’t know about you, but as a shopper, I think that one might bother me a bit. What they’re trying to do is pretty obvious — direct people to their app. But it still seems like a bit of a hassle.
The consensus seems to be that Amazon Books is a lot like your typical bookstore. Except not. It’s techy and flashy and some would argue a bit too loud to provide the quiet bookstore experience many are looking for.
The real question is how the retail location will affect traditional bookstores — especially smaller, independently owned businesses. Amazon usually has the upper hand when it comes to low prices, and now they’ve got the brick-and-mortar location millennials are apparently looking for. Even so, does Amazon Books stand up to other, local bookstores, especially when it comes to ambience and overall experience? At this point, it’s too early to tell.
While the Seattle location is currently the only brick-and-mortar store, the company has expressed interest in building more in the future. With only one location, our bookstores are probably safe for now, but this will definitely be something to pay attention to in the future.
— Jessica Demarest