Will the Real Amazon Bookstore Please Stand Up

Photo from thecurrent.org.

Great speculation is abundant in the continuing saga of the Amazon Brick and Mortar Store. A year ago, our Lynne Cantwell wrote about a physical Amazon Store coming to New York City. It was reported back then that they would be the first physical store in Amazon’s arsenal. It turns out that this is not the case.

However, it is true that Amazon does own a 17-year lease on the space. While the world wondered about the “Miracle on 34th Street,” Amazon quietly opened its first physical bookstore in its hometown of Seattle, Washington. On November 3rd, the online selling giant opened their doors for book browsing.

Hah! Wasn’t the mission of Amazon to do the opposite? Weren’t they supposed to change the world and have all humans reading on the Kindle? Goodbye tree-killing books! Maybe they did exactly what they set out to do. The giant book retailers are all but gone. Borders … kaput. Barnes & Noble … struggling.

So, why did Amazon jump into the physical bookstore game? Does it consider itself an indie bookstore? In some ways, yes.

Here’s the interesting thing; independent bookstores are on the rise. According to data released by the American Booksellers Association and reported in the New York Times, the number of independent bookstores has risen 27% since 2009. While most of the giant bookstores are reporting losses, the independent bookstore is showing an 8% growth. So why is Amazon getting into this game?

Maybe it’s because they earn two billion dollars a quarter and have some cash burning a hole in their pocket. Admit it, if you had that kind of cash, you would probably open a bookstore, too!

Some of the things you would find are very Amazon. Nearly all the books are displayed cover-out for better browsing, almost like looking through selections online. Amazon will use their copious amounts of data to help stock and sell books. The familiar “Amazon Review” can be found below each book with a chosen review and overall star count as you would find online.

I’m sure you’re thinking that they’ve jacked up the prices to support all the bricks and mortar, right? Wrong: the store will have the exact same prices as you would find online.

Here’s the question. Why is Amazon going in this direction? Will it destroy the indie bookstore? What are your thoughts on this move? Does the Indies Unlimited family look at this as a good thing or the further demise of the book world? I would love to know what you’re thinking.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

10 thoughts on “Will the Real Amazon Bookstore Please Stand Up”

  1. I’m not sure why they’re doing this, but if I had that much extra cash (actually a few million might be enough, I don’t need billions) then I would consider opening a bookstore, so you’re right about that. (The bar with live music would come first though, but if I have enough leftover for the bookstore …)

  2. Interesting. And it wouldn’t be the first time any industry has swung first one way, then the other. You know if Amazon’s doing it, it does not plan on losing money. Will keep an eye on this. Thanks.

  3. I am not sure why they’re doing it, but I am just waiting for the hoopla to die down so I can go check it out!

  4. I heard somewhere that sales of dead-tree books are going back up again. Maybe that prompted it.
    BTW I don’t like the idea of denigrating paper because it kills trees. The paper industry actually also encourages the planting of trees.Okay, they’re planted to be harvested one day but in the forty years they’re left to grow, they’re helping the planet and they’ll always be re-planted if the market for paper continues. So buy more paper products for heavens sake.I know a commercial forest is not a lovely diverse native forest but its better than no forest at all.
    Here they’re replacing all the commercial forests with horrible cruel polluting dairy farms.

    1. I think you misheard, Tui. What is happening is the percentage of ebooks as the market as measured by those who are only looking at traditional publishers is (a) not increasing as fast as it has been in the recent past or (b) possibly even going down. The problem with all of those stories is they aren’t measuring indie books at all while the publishers are pushing up the cost of ebooks in the hope of slowing down adoption of ebooks.

  5. I think we’re looking at an Amazon experiment…of some sort. What they hope to gain, though, is a mystery. If the dead tree books remain the same price as their online cousins then surely Amazon is losing money on them? And displaying them cover out reduces the volumes they can store. Again, details the bricks and mortar bookstores have known for ages. So it’s doubtful Amazon is trying to beat the Indie bookstores on efficiency or cost to profit.
    -shrug- I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  6. I suspect they are trying to attract people who are used to physical stores and haven’t yet switched to buying online, so that they can profit from sales to ALL the people who buy books instead of just those who already shop at Amazon. Some people will always prefer to browse physically if they live near a bookstore. Also, they may hope it will encourage those people to go online for the many books that they don’t stock, once they see their prices and reviews.

  7. Investing in physical bookstores is an effective way of avoiding taxes whist still striving for total domination of the book sales market. Clever thinking.

  8. I think it’s an idea that builds good will. Readers, wherher they’ve adopted ereaders or still adore paper, like bookstores. Readers tend to have been read to as children and have very fond memories of the bookstore experience. They like seeing, smelling and touching books. Going to an Amazon store seems appealing as a reader for several reasons. One, it’s a bookstore, so yay. Two, it’s a one of a kind bookstore. There are no other physical Amazon bookstores so going there is unique. Three, it’s got a lot of books and they’re displayed differently (all face out). That’s got to be a curious experience. Four. If you’re not from Seattle, it sounds like a fun tourist experience.

    I’m curious to see how they’ll do. And if I’m ever in Seattle, I’ll check it out.

  9. Amazon’s building brick & mortar stores? What? When I published my first book (1971) indie bookstores prevailed. We bemoaned the chains (B&N and Borders) surrounding us. Death to our favorite independents. Then Amazon emerged, breaking the chains. And we bemoaned losing our “wonderful neighborhood B&N or Borders.” Then came the next big threat: ebooks! The industry pooh-poohed them as a passing fad. But they didn’t go away. So now the independents rise again! Good. I like that. I can even order ebooks from them. Next chapter? Bezos, the Wizard of Amazon, cobbles together a brick & mortar store. Sometimes I think the publishing industry forgets that we readers and writers are at the center of the never-ending story, the central plot. What’s next, Wizard Bezos? “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” (Apologies to WB Yeats.) Maybe there’ll come a day when we all sit ’round in our own circles, sharing our stories, directly from mind to mind.

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