Round-Down: Amazon Opens Amazon Books in Seattle

Picture of the Seattle skyline.

Amazon Books, Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar bookstore, opened last week in Seattle’s University Village.

The store is similar in appearance to many book retailers, though Amazon Books interestingly (and necessarily) does not note hard prices on its items in-store–the store has a commitment to its Amazon prices, which frequently change.

Because of this, those browsing the Seattle Amazon Books location are encouraged to instead look up prices on the Amazon app while in the store, and are able to buy their books either online or on the spot, at the physical location.

Amazon’s press release mentions that the books in its store “are selected based on customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and our curators’ assessments. . . . Most have been rated 4 stars or above, and many are award winners. To give you more information as you browse, our books are face-out, and under each one is a review card with the customer rating and a review.”

Unsurprisingly, most prominent media outlets have covered the news of the store opening. At the Los Angeles Times, Samantha Masunaga details some of the competition Amazon might face now that it’s ventured into retailing books at a physical location and cites declining revenue, digital competition, and smaller rivals as potential issues for Amazon.

At Vox, Sarah Kliff writes, “I went into the store expecting to write a takedown. I ended up buying a book and a pair of headphones.”

At Forbes, Alastair Dryburgh discusses what Amazon Books might be telling us about the future of the brick-and-mortar bookstore at large. Dryburgh analyzes the potential of Amazon’s massive amount of buyer data, and his article includes word from Vice President of Amazon Books Jennifer Cast, who notes that this is “data with heart. . . . We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it.”

Though there is a considerable amount of skepticism surrounding Amazon Books, and many have focused on the ostensible irony of Amazon’s participation in a market it may have damaged, Amazon Books still seems like a promising venture, an interesting idea. It’s a downright exciting thing, honestly, to see the Amazon reach into this realm in a new way.

The possible success of Amazon Books is perhaps best captured in a few lines from Kliff’s Vox piece:

“‘Your store is very crowded and uncomfortable to be in,’ [a customer] noted. ‘There are no prices. Just some feedback for you.’

He then proceeded to buy a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership.”

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