Amazon, a company that made its name undercutting brick-and-mortar retailers using cheap labour and UPS, opened the doors to its first real book store in Seattle at 9:30am today (4:30am Sydney time).
The store, located in University Village, seems mostly to be a vanity project for Amazon in its hometown. There’s going to be about 5000 books in a 510 square metre retail space: far less than a traditional bookstore, because Amazon will be displaying books facing cover-out rather than spine-out, in an effort to showcase the authors. Combine that with the pricing — the same as Amazon’s website — and it’s hard to see Amazon making actual money from the project.
That said, the company will have the upper hand in selecting titles, since it’s planning to use data from its millions of customers to stock shelves with the most popular books. There will also be a space to try Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets, although I assume no-one will be trying to sell you a Fire phone. Most notably, there’s no pick-up option for online orders, which has been a staple of Amazon’s previous physical locations.
Amazon’s got a lot of stick for causing the demise of physical bookstores, so it’s a little strange to see it opening up a store — even with the big-data approach to inventory, it’s difficult to imagine Amazon Books turning a profit. But that hasn’t stopped the company before, so, although there are no plans for a future expansion, maybe don’t get too attached to your friendly local bookstore.