Two decades after the company began selling books online and lead to the demise of many bookstores, Amazon is now selling books in its own brick-and-mortar bookstore. The company, which is now the world’s largest bookseller as well as a shopping source for virtually everything else, opened a shopping center retail store in Seattle, Wash., Tuesday, not too far from the company’s headquarters.
The shop, which has 5,500 square feet of retail space and 2,000 square feet of storage, is called Amazon Books. Its shelves are structured and stocked like many of the bookstores that have closed in recent years because of competition from online book sales.
Taking a cue from Apple’s highly successful retail footprint, the Amazon Books store is reportedly selling its books and Kindles for the same prices they post online. This practice is fairly typical for best-selling items at retailers with etailer sites like Target, Old Navy and others, but they also offer merchandise that is not priced the same. They also do not have Amazon’s reputation for undercutting physical retailers.
Amazon is betting that it has troves of data on shopping patterns and its customers’ preferences that other companies do not have. They believe that will give them a competitive advantage over other physical bookstores. Business columnists have suggested that the etailer’s deep insight into buying habits will help them stock titles that are likely to move in Seattle. But, it is hard to see what difference that offers than sales data for other retail stores.
Additionally, for some time, it will be hard for Amazon to determine what items someone would be more likely to buy quickly on the spot versus having sent to them. There is likely to be a difference in buyer behavior when impulse buying is factored in.
To avoid books sitting on shelves, Amazon is likely to keep the shop stocked with merchandise they know will move versus aiming for a broad selection. This seems borne out in their unusual decision to have every book sit on shelves with the front cover showing versus merely showing the spine. This definitely does not allow for as many volumes to be displayed, but the practice does allow the cover art to draw attention to all books, not just showcasing bestsellers or new works that are usually displayed that way in stores.
Besides promoting bestsellers, the store will also promote books that received high ratings from its online customers whether the works are well known or not. They will reportedly also post reviews from Amazon customers who added them on the company’s website. The shelf under each book will include the review or rating information.
The creation of Amazon.com changed the book industry, whether the bottom lines for chains like the late-Borders or Barnes and Noble or helping boost the popularity and use of e-readers. It will be interesting to see what Amazon does with its bookstore, whether it is meant to drive online book sales or is the bellwether of a return to selling books (and other things) in physical locations.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Seattle Times: Amazon opening its first real bookstore — at U-Village
Fortune: Is Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Store A Facade For E-Commerce?
New York Times: Amazon Opens Its First Bookstore as Extension of Website
Photo courtesy of Maciej Lewandowski’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons license