After helping drive many bookshops out of business, Amazon recently launched its own chain of physical retail stores, starting with Seattle in 2015, and this week its first in New York opens at ‘The Shops at Columbus Circle’, near Central Park.
The company’s data-centric approach has informed the store’s layout; positioned on the first table near the entrance are ‘Highly Rated’ books – 4.8 stars and above on Amazon’s website – while another display features ‘Page Turners’, consisting of books that Kindle readers finish in three days or less. There’s also a section where Amazon replicates the ‘you might also like’ functionality of its site.
Title cards feature a barcode, not price; if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber you pay the current Amazon price for each book, usually well below suggested retail price. If you’re not a Prime member you pay full retail, unless you want to sign up for a trial Prime subscription in the store. Certain categories of hardware are available too, such as a Joule sous vide cooking device on display alongside related books. There’s no cafe, however, and nowhere obvious to sit.
“While Apple is trying to turn its stores into ‘modern-day town squares’ where people hang out and learn creative skills, this very much feels like a straightforward, nice-enough bookstore,” said Dan Fromer, editor-in-chief of Recode. “But that’s always been what Amazon does best – predictable, good value and reliable for the masses. And hey, now there’s a bookstore in the mall again.”