Popular Culture

Amazon Opens a Real-Life Bookstore in Seattle



Amazon is confused.

Either that, or they’re trying something new and different in this world dominated by digital: brick-and-mortar stores that echo a lot of the same features we might find online. And judging by the success of the store’s opening, it may just be working.

Amazon.com, when it first went live 20 years ago, was the ultimate alternative to buying books in-store. It allowed all of the things that have since become commonplace: discounted books (and every other kinds of goods imaginable), marketplace options that often list books for $0.01, online reviews, and an extensive database on which you can find almost every title, in or out of print.

Now, Amazon is going the opposite direction of most traditional companies, and opening a storefront long after they launched a website.

The company’s first permanent storefront is located in Seattle, on the edge of the University of Washington’s campus, within a 5,500-foot space decorated with hardwood floors and wooden shelves, as well as a carpeted children’s area furnished with cushy armchairs. Amazon Books is small and compact, but it’s packing a punch by categorizing and organizing by the same methods we’ve grown accustomed to on Amazon.com.

Instead of displaying the spines of books like traditional bookstores, Amazon Books displays their covers like you see online. Below each book you can find online reviews printed on cards, that also include a summary of the title’s rating in average number of stars, along with the number of reviews. Sound familiar?

When you browse the store, you can find titles organized by rating, as well as popular bestsellers and popular pre-order titles. The same intuitive categorization Amazon uses online is utilized here, with the added satisfaction physical shopppers experience of instant gratification. Amazon knows that one of the best shopping experiences is leaving with your purchased item in hand, and now they’re cornering the market on that feeling.

The opening day saw decent crowds of people browsing the store, and waiting in line to check out. Now that’s something you don’t get when you buy online, but hey—that’s just part of the experience.



In the future, Amazon Books also plans to incorporate further elements to echo the online Amazon experience, as well as offering elements you just can’t get online. There will be a section where you can test out Amazon’s Kindle, Echo controller, and Fire TV. Think of a combination between Barnes & Noble and an Apple Store.

An Amazon representative hinted on Tuesday that this store isn’t the only one that will open, marking the latest endeavor by Amazon to shift its focus from the digital world into the physical one.  Readers will remember Amazon’s new Home Services business that launched earlier this year, which offers services like painting, cleaning, and other home-specific needs.

True, this move does seem like sort of a head-scratcher for a company that built an empire eschewing the exorbitant costs of physical locations, using that reduction in overhead to offer the best prices available anywhere. But did we mention that the new Amazon Books offers their books at the same prices as the ones they have online?

So yeah, I wouldn’t mind one opening up near me.


Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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