Amazon Can Deliver a Book in an Hour in Manhattan

prime-now[1]Amazon is working to eliminate one of the last differences between books and ebooks: immediacy. On Thursday the retailer launched Prime Now, a service which promises delivery in an hour or less.

First reported last week, the service is only available in select parts of Manhattan (map), and only to Amazon Prime subscribers. For a mere $8 a Prime member can pay to get one of tens of thousands of items (including books) delivered within an hour.

They can also get that item delivered in a two hour window at no cost. The packages are apparently going to be delivered out of the office building Amazon leased a month back, and carried by bike messengers.

Amazon supports same day delivery in many metro areas (including the suburbs), but they also have a lot of competition. As I reported back in August, there are numerous startups working on similar ideas, including Google, which partnered with a bunch of companies (including B&N) to offer same day delivery, as well as companies like Seamless, WunWun, and Postmates.

But in spite of the extreme competition for same day deliveries, I can’t see that any of the services offer such a tight window as Prime Now. The services that work with restaurants for food delivery could pull that off, but that’s a very limited market. (It’s also not new; I know of a local Chinese carryout that has online ordering through a service which launched in 2009.)

In offering a one hour delivery option, Amazon may well have found a niche no one else can match. But it’s also one which probably can’t be expanded outside of core metro areas.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. fjtorres18 December, 2014

    I wonder if the Amazon facility in Manhattan is using their robots.
    The robots let them prepare a package for delivery in 15 minutes which is hard to do.

    The closest I can think of was CIRCUIT CITY in its waning days, that promised and generally delivered on a promise of 20 minute availability for online order pickup. But that didn’t include checkout.

    The issue isn’t going to be so much matching the 1hr or 2 hr window but rather the size of the delivery zone. If Amazon is using robots, their delivery radius is going to be larger than a competitors’.

    1. Nate Hoffelder18 December, 2014

      I doubt that the NYC location uses robots. In the first place it’s simply not big enough, and retrofitting it would cost too much.

      1. fjtorres18 December, 2014

        “Not big enough” partly explains why Prime now only covers a few tens of thousands of small items.
        But if they’re not using the robots that would mean they can still get more efficient and have bigger reach later. Could get interesting.

  2. Ebook Bargains UK19 December, 2014

    If there are only tens of thousands of products available across the board then the range of books to choose from that might be delivered in the required time is not going to be very impressive,and certainly won’t be including any indie POD titles. But a nice little bonus for trad pub.

    1. fjtorres19 December, 2014

      Well, it’s Manhattan. Amazon knows what they buy.g
      All they need is the 100 bestsellers and 900 litfic titles.
      The rest of the stuff is probably cellphone batteries, razon blades, and diapers.
      (Judging by NYT articles, manhattanites have a thing about diapers.) 😀

  3. neuse river sailor19 December, 2014

    I’d call this a proof of concept and a shot fired across the bow of brick and mortar retailers.

  4. puzzled19 December, 2014

    I can see that this is going to completely change action movies based in New York.

    Our heroes come across a bomb, counting down.

    They go onto Amazon, order ‘Bomb Defusing for Dummies’.

    Cut to montage of them waiting for an hour.

    Knock on door. Slowly approach door. Stand at sides of door frame. “Yeah?” “Amazon”.

    Our heroes flip through book.

    Our heroes cut the blue wire.

    New York is once again safe for democracy.


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