From city to city and coast to coast, one usually knows what to expect when they enter a book store: shelves stuffed end-to-end with books, some chairs for reading in, maybe even a coffee shop if the store is part of a larger chain.
Not so with the new Amazon bookstore.
The online retail giant, which established its first physical store in Seattle in 2015, will open its first New York City location tomorrow in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. Though the new brick-and-mortar shop may appear like your average Borders or Barnes and Noble at first glance, closer inspection reveals just how closely Amazon is hewing to their online roots as they bring their business out of the virtual world and into the real one.
Image courtesy of GeekWire
Gone are the endless shelves overflowing with titles; Amazon prefers to display their books front-facing, a move that sacrifices space for additional titles but allows for a presentation mimicking the one found on their website. You won’t find much seating in the store either (and no coffee shop), contributing to more of a grab-and-go vibe than a lounge-and-browse one. Another striking difference: There are no price listings for any of the titles! Rather than checking the book itself for the cost, customers can use their smartphones to scan the barcode presented on the card below each book, which also provides a short online review of the book and its starred rating.
Pricing itself is less straightforward, with Amazon Prime members paying much less than the non-members ponying up the full retail price. Along with more generic categories like Cooking, Amazon has created special categories based directly off their website: “If you like this/You’ll love”, “Page Turners: Books Kindle Readers Finished in 3 Days or Less”, and so on.
Image courtesy of Digital Trends
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the store is its focus on tech, with a full 20 percent of its space devoted to marketing Kindles, Kindle Fires, Echoes, and all manner of Amazon gadgetry. Kindles can be found alongside regular paperbacks and hardcovers, as well throughout the children’s section. And don’t plan on bringing cash with you–the store will only accept payment through credit card or the Amazon app.
Image courtesy of CNET
As a NYC resident and bookworm, I should be over the moon. But I’m not. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Amazon or their products—I very much enjoy the ability to buy, order and read books, at affordable rates, whenever and wherever I want. Yet in their attempts to appeal to physical book-loving young people like me, Amazon has come short of capturing the simple but powerful magic of the traditional book store experience.
For good or for ill, Amazon has already put once-vibrant chains like Borders out of business; for all its hipness and efficiency, this new store can’t help but remind me of those stores’ corporate feel, sans any of their residual comfort. Amazon is opening these stores in part to capitalize on the resurgence of small independent bookstores, which have seen nearly 30 percent growth since 2009. Call me sentimental if you must, but I’d prefer Amazon stay online and give those places some space of their own.
Featured image courtesy of Business Insider