It started from the web and now it’s here — with a physical storefront, I mean. Abandoning, or perhaps simply augmenting, its not-so-humble beginnings as an online marketplace, Amazon has now opened its first-ever brick and mortar storefront at University Village in Seattle, Washington. On Tuesday morning at 9:30 am, Amazon will open physical doors and welcome eager customers to a place where Amazon Prime isn’t the most efficient way of getting your goods to your front door (because you can just drive home with them instead). But don’t get too excited — this new Amazon location won’t be like a Costco emporium. Rather, it’ll be a bookstore, and a very special one at that.
“Amazon Books is a physical extension of Amazon.com,” says Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books in an email to customers. “We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.” Explaining that the books the store will carry have been carefully curated “based on Amazon.com customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and our curators’ assessments,” Cast assures customers, “These are fantastic books! Most have been rated 4 stars or above, and many are award winners.”
The move is an interesting one for the Internet giant, which has long been viewed as the bane of local bookstores’ existences. But now, Amazon is joining the ranks of some of its sharpest critics, and Cast told the Seattle Times, “Our goal is to do a great job selling lots of books.” And with 5,500 square feet of retail space and an additional 2,000 square feet of storage, they certainly have the real estate to do so.
This wealth of space is necessary for the interesting layout Amazon plans to have with its new store — whereas traditional bookstores line books up with their spines showing, Amazon will instead place every book with its front cover out. This means a lot less space for books, but a lot more attention paid to each title. The store will also try to bring some of Amazon’s online search terms into real life, maintaining different sections like “Most Wished-For Cookbooks” and “Award Winners, 4.5 Stars & Above, Age 6-12.” And no Amazon bookstore would be complete without a staff-favorites section (which includes CEO Jeff Bezos’ choice read “Traps,” written, as it happens, by his wife, MacKenzie Bezos).
Of course, and as Cast insists, the book selection won’t be purely based on staff biases and big data. “It’s data with heart,” she said. “We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it.”
There’s no word yet as to whether the online (and now offline) retailer plans to open up any more locations. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how many stars this first Amazon Books receives.