Amazon B&M in New York City

by Rickard Hollick

Amazon’s new bricks and mortar store in Manhattan is on the third floor of the Time Warner Center. A few years ago we had a large Borders bookshop in this building, but of course that went the way of all flesh. Here’s a Cnet story with a brief video which gives a good impression of the store.

Amazon B&M in New York City Amazon Bookstore

I looked in on Thursday, the day it opened, but couldn’t stay, ‘cos I had to be elsewhere. I went back the next day, and had to stand in line to get in the front door! In this picture you can see the security guard at the door, allowing us in in proportion to shoppers who’d leave. It didn’t last too long: maybe 5 minutes, less if anything. I suspect this must be the first time I’ve ever had to get on line to get into a bookshop — heck, any shop — though I suppose I may have had to queue up at Titus Wilson’s in Sedbergh to buy my schoolbooks at the start of term. I doubt if this Amazon queue at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon indicates an accelerated love of books among my fellow citizens. Most people were there, like me, out of curiosity.

And it is curious. All the books are displayed face out: which results in there not being that many of them. I didn’t attempt a count, but I wonder if it’s the 3,000 CNN Tech says it is, though several do get duplicate locations under different category headings. They’ve used sales data to govern the inventory selection, so I suppose I shouldn’t really have expected to find anything I wanted (my bag being the off-beat rather than the popular). However, I was surprised to discover they did stock the book I was reading while online, Keith Houston’s The Book — luckily I had shown it to the security guard, so didn’t have to panic about being forced to buy it again! Not, I have to confess, that I saw anyone actually doing anything as vulgar as buying a book. One of the many employees in evidence told me I could make a purchase through an Amazon app, though unfortunately that’s not an Amazon-Go-type of sale: i.e. buy it on the iPhone and just walk out of the store. The CNN Tech link above shows a sale being made. (I declined to download the app till I had found a book I’d want to buy.) If you are an Amazon Prime member you get the discounted price shown at Amazon.com, if not it’s full price for you. Around the store there are scan stations which will read the barcode and tell you what you’ll pay. Non-Primers can of course just read that information off the back of the book as in any shop: it’s not like they are obscuring the prices so that you’d have to go on-line.

Slightly less than a quarter of the store, half of the front area, is devoted to electronics: various Kindles, Alexas etc. I guess it’s the sort of bookstore you might go to if you wanted to get a last-minute gift, or are looking for a discount on a current bestseller. It just doesn’t feel like a real bookstore — but maybe that was because of the crowd and the large staff.

6 Comments

  1. Nate Hoffelder28 May, 2017

    If you can only buy through the Amazon app on your smartphone, wouldn’t that effectively make this the bookstore analog of Amazon’s cashier-less grocery store?

    Reply
    1. Michael28 May, 2017

      Another article I read mentioned being able to swipe a credit card rather than use the app. Not sure whether they accept cash though. What I’m least clear on is whether Prime members can get the Prime price without purchasing through the app. If so, how do they validate your account? Maybe it’d be enough to swipe a credit card that’s linked to an Amazon Prime membership.

      Pretty smart encouraging people to scan books via the app, allowing Amazon to collect data on what catches your eye in-store even if you don’t purchase it. I wonder if it then makes its way into your official Recently Viewed history or if they just use the data behind the scenes.

      Reply
      1. Frank30 May, 2017

        The staff checks for Prime by asking for the name of the Amazon account. Due to the difference in pricing of Prime vs non-Prime, the store serves as a way to encourage joining Prime, which can be paid for at the store.

        To pay for a book, you may use a credit card or an Amazon account. Cash and checks are not accepted.

        Reply
  2. So the security guard is stopping people getting in, while the shop itself appears to be half-empty, and the checkout staff are all standing idle.

    Other Cnet photos show a bookstore where many of the shelves are given over to phone cases and other non-book items – isn’t that what we’re always berating B&N for doing?

    And where are the self-published books?

    Reply
  3. Richard Hollick31 May, 2017

    You can buy through your smartphone app but not as in Amazon Go, without dealing with a sales person. In this store they still need to square up their end of the purchase. There do appear to be quite a few employees there, but of course some of them may only be there for the opening rush I guess.

    In order to get the Prime price you have to buy through the app. They do take credit cards (no cash) but in that case they’d need to prove your Prime membership, and if they’ve done that why add the step of a separate credit card. May be possible I suppose — but I didn’t find a book I wanted to buy! If you swipe a credit card, that’s a separate, non-Prime-app purchase. NonPrime members would have to buy this way, at full price. Yes, the store is a living “advert” for Prime membership.

    I didn’t notice any self-published books, but I wouldn’t want to claim that there were none there.

    Richard Hollick

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder31 May, 2017

      thanks for the update, Richard.

      Reply

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