Twenty years after it took book sales online, Amazon is taking them right back to the store with its brand new bookstore… made of bricks and mortar.
The online retail corporation, which now sells everything under the sun but began as a book seller, opened a new store, “Amazon Books” this week at University Village in Seattle in Washington State, USA. According to The Seattle Times, the new “physical extension of Amazon.com” will stock up to 6,000 titles all chosen based on customer ratings and sales from its website.
Vice president of Amazon Books, Jennifer Cast, said that the store is aiming to combine the benefits of both high street and online shopping in one place, and books in the Seattle store will cost the same price as their online counterparts, which might be a relief for those who have grown used to Amazon’s reasonable prices and free home delivery.
However, on the other side of the fence, other traditional booksellers including UK brands like Waterstones and Blackwell’s and US stores such as Barnes and Noble, have long been enemies of Amazon for cutting the cost of books and taking customers out of the comfort of their stores and into the ether of e-commerce. Many independent bookstores have gone out of business in the two decades since Amazon began, and so some critics might have something to say about the giant business bringing its cut prices to the high street.
For the staff working at struggling stores in Seattle, the good news is that the Amazon Books store has promised that it will hire directly from those stores who might be letting staff go, but the bad news is that those stores should be closing at all. The question here is, is Amazon finally gratifying itself for taking the business off the high street in the first place, or is it in actual fact just coming back to finish off the kill and make sure that those other businesses have no place whatsoever in the bookselling industry.
Issie Lapowsky, writing from Wired, modified an old expression by saying that Amazon’s latest move is “both beating them and joining them,” and pondered whether Seattle-based bookstores will be too thrilled about their employees being poached by a larger, trendier competitor. On the other hand, however, Leonid Bershisky writing from the Denver Post pointed out that Amazon’s new store points to the fact that software has not actually destroyed the bookstore, as many believe that it is, but instead forcing all competitors in the industry to play to their strengths.
Remember, says Bershisky, it is about personal preferences, not progress, and Amazon is simply trying to cater to all of those differences.