News broke today that Amazon is doubling back on itself and opening a bookstore in Seattle called Amazon Books with maybe more to come. But this isn’t terribly surprising…here’s why:
1) PRINT NOT DEAD. There’s still life in those pages. With probably some life in bookstores. Yep, book people are hardcore nostalgists or read both print and ebooks, so why wouldn’t Amazon want to jump on that?
2) Amazon killed the competition. Even arsonists need a place to live, right? Amazon burned the chaff, but there’s still a need for people to gather and talk about books. Just not as big of need as before.
3) Amazon created its own book culture. The 90s and early 00s were all about lamenting about Amazon taking the book culture. Nowadays, they have defined book culture. There’s been a whole generation of people who have been raised on Amazon and have made money doing it. Amazon has made the everyday writer money and has empowered people to self-publish or at least try to. They trust Amazon.
4) Amazon knows what readers want. Amazon has the data and can overcome inefficiencies. Just because Kmart is failing doesn’t mean Target can’t succeed. The concept of bookstores still has value, but who is doing them well? Barnes and Noble is out. Books-A-Million is randomly convenient for a calendar. But Amazon has loads of reviews and algorithms dictating who is reading what. The competitors have a fraction of that.
5) Amazon can take risks. Unlike a bookstore or Barnes & Noble, books aren’t their main thing. They can afford to experiment with a random physical bookstore. It doesn’t hurt their bottom line. They’re fueled by really great toilet paper sales and diapers, I don’t know. Books are just aa small thing that gets journalists and writers buzzing about Amazon. It’s a win-win.
All of that said, will I go to an Amazon bookstore? Eh, I would go in, but I doubt I’d buy anything. I have really obscure tastes. That said, I’ve ordered a few books here and there because as a reader with obscure tastes…they have what I’m looking for. Amazon is banking that they have enough of what regular book buyers have that they’ll succeed.
(And no, Amazon is not killing the library)