It’s somewhat ironic that Amazon helped drive many independent bookstores out of business, and now Amazon is starting to open their own bookstores in Seattle, San Diego, and soon Portland. The big difference between an ordinary bookstore and an Amazon bookstore is that an Amazon bookstore is meant more to introduce you to the Amazon ecosystem rather than just to sell you a book.
Walk into a Barnes & Noble and compare it to an Amazon bookstore and you’ll see the difference right away. A Barnes & Noble bookstore overwhelms you with a huge variety of books to give you the most options of finding what you want. Anything from woodworking and gardening to quantum physics and accounting, you can probably find a book about that topic in most ordinary bookstores.
However, step into an Amazon bookstore and you’ll see a much more limited variety. Instead of trying to bombard you with as many book choices as possible, an Amazon bookstore just gives you a limited selection of the most popular books in that particular area, based on Amazon’s data from its online store.
So not only will you get a much more limited selection of books, but you’ll also see short reviews of each book on the shelf. As you can see in the picture above, an Amazon bookstore may have fewer titles available, but they tend to have at least five copies of each title along with a brief review of each book for anyone to browse.
So an ordinary bookstore overwhelms you with choices and it’s up to you to find what you want. An Amazon bookstore offers far fewer books, but provides multiple copies of each along with a short review to help you understand why that particular book is highlighted.
It’s hard to say which approach is better, the traditional bookstore model or the Amazon bookstore model. When a traditional bookstore, you can easily get lost wandering the aisles and finding books you might never have heard about before. With an Amazon bookstore, you’re getting a curated choice of books on different topics, but with far less depth and variety.
Think of an Amazon bookstore as a curated experience where a knowledgeable librarian has selected the most popular books on a given topic that you’re likely to enjoy. From a business point of view, the Amazon bookstore model is superior because it means less inventory to stock and books more likely to sell on any given topic. Despite fewer choices, the Amazon bookstore is better suited for fast browsing vs. the traditional bookstore that’s better suited for in depth research.
Amazon plans to open a bookstore in Portland soon so we can see if Amazon bookstores will start to appear around the rest of the country. You probably can’t spend much time in an Amazon bookstore because of the limited selection, but you still may find something of interest because the store is designed to promote a handful of titles instead of an avalanche of titles.
Curiously, Amazon’s bookstores sells books for retail price, so if you find something you like, it may actually be cheaper to buy it online. If you’re an Amazon Prime member (and pay for that privilege), then you can purchase books at the usual discounted price.
Since traditional bookstores like Barnes & Noble keep struggling with high lease costs and declining book sales, it’s likely that the Amazon bookstore model is the wave of the future. Amazon’s bookstores aren’t meant to sell you products as much as it’s meant to get you to buy something from Amazon, preferably online.
Unlike traditional bookstores, Amazon’s bookstores don’t need to make money selling books if they can drive people to buying books online or through Kindle. Whether you like it or not, the future of bookstores is increasingly looking like Amazon.