In November 2015, Amazon opened its first physical, real-life bookstore, called Amazon Books, right on its home turf of Seattle. Since then, Amazon has opened two more bookstores in San Diego and Portland, Oregon, and has just unveiled plans to open a new shop in Midtown Manhattan.
The latest bookstore will be located inside the Shops at Columbus Circle, a high-end shopping center near Central Park. Two more stores are now being planned for Chicago and Dedham, Massachusetts, according to The Wall Street Journal.
While I was in Seattle in August, I made sure to stop by the original Amazon Books to check it out. I don’t necessarily love Amazon, but I love books, and I am willing to play along with its ever-ambitious plans to conquer the world of commerce. Cheaper is cheaper, after all.
When my colleague Aly Weisman stopped by Amazon Books last December, she found that while she liked it for the most part, she hated the core concept of the store: The books don’t have a listed price; you have to use your phone and scan to see the most current price. But I had the complete opposite reaction. I thought it was great, in a way that only Amazon could make possible. Take a look and see what I mean:
The first Amazon Books is in Seattle’s University Heights neighborhood, not terribly far from the University of Washington.
At first blush, it looks just like any other bookstore on the inside. But the first hint that things might be a little different comes in that orange sign that says, “What’s the price?”
If you want a book, you have to check Amazon for the most current price. If it’s cheaper on the website, it’s cheaper in the store. And if something is on sale on the website, it’s on sale in the store, too. Neat!
So when I decided that I wanted “Nimona,” the (excellent) National Book Award Finalist graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, I first had to scan it in the Amazon app for my iPhone and found that it was being offered for $7.92, or a solid 39% off the list price.
One critical flaw with Amazon’s whole online shopping concept, and it’s been that way since 1994: It just can’t match the experience of going to the store and rifling through the pages of something that caught your eye. So Amazon Books is the best of both worlds. I get that experience of browsing the shelves, which, as a card-carrying nerd, I love a lot. But I also know I’m getting what is almost definitely the best price possible, thanks to Amazon.
If you use your Amazon account at checkout, the cashier will even thank you for being an Amazon Prime member. It’s all very Amazon-y.