Walking into NYC’s first Amazon Books location — the seventh bookstore it has opened nationwide — the 4,000 square foot space is packed with books, but barely feels like a bookstore. Sure, there are rows of
Amazon Books is using
Instead of price tags, the shelves are littered with barcode scanners. Book sections are separated by how many stars books have, and small reader reviews sit beneath the
If you enter a Barnes & Noble, it’s easy to settle in between the large spaces left among the shelves or take a seat at the conveniently integrated Starbucks at most locations. Although B&N locations are bigger than Amazon Books, it has a cozier vibe, and lets you create your own private space.
As a kid and, even now as an adult, I’ll venture into the nearest bookstore and find myself spending hours on the dusty carpet, nose buried in a book, wishing my wallet would let me walk out of there rolling a red wagon full of novels, Matilda style. My phone is lost somewhere at the bottom of my bag on silent and I no longer care to scroll through Instagram or answer what I would normally feel is an urgent text.
The tight layout of the store and constant price scanning process leaves no room to escape into the literary world.
It’s hard to even clear your head in Amazon Books because you’re trapped on your phone. You use an app to do everything. It’s an essential part of the experience.
While Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go seem interested in the food they sell, Amazon Books is using
The tech section of the store closely mirrors Barnes & Noble’s obsolete music section, which is stocked with the latest CDs, vinyls, and cassette tapes. If you initially came in to look for a book, you could also browse the endless options of entertainment. Tech gadgets are included in the new wave of enhancing arts and entertainment for the better, but at least B&N had the courtesy to separate the section more, and offer headphones for people who wanted to rock out to some cassette tapes and CDs in private. For Amazon, there is no separation between Echos, Fire tablets, and books. They’re all mushed together.
The tight layout of the store and constant price scanning process leaves no room to escape into the literary world. It was hard to hear myself think with people requesting Alexa to play random songs for them on full volume, let alone try to read a book. Amazon seems to have little interest in sharing actual literature. From the design, this store is geared toward folks who want any book that’s currently trending in pop culture (with a 4.5 star rating), but also wouldn’t mind purchasing an Amazon-powered digital home assistant instead.
The commonality behind Amazon-run stores are that they don’t force you to disconnect from technology, but enable the habit instead. It’s considered a bookstore, but Amazon Books is really about selling the online retailer’s popular gadgets in a physical retail space. Amazon’s main focus was never to only be your go-to bookstore. Its plan is to take complex technology and find ways to inject Amazon’s online store into your everyday tasks until you find yourself automatically using Amazon.com when you need to buy anything at all.
Visiting the store was an experience that I thought would be pretty fun, and a step in the right direction to salvage the stigma of physical books. But where’s the fun? Sadly,
Shakespeare didn’t die for this.
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