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Amazon Has Thrown in the Towel on a Third Bookstore

It looks like Amazon is losing interest in opening new bookstores. It has recently either abandoned or adapted three Amazon Books locations, raising questions whether Amazon is going to continue opening new bookstores.

This story came to my attention this morning when I read in the Idaho Statesman that Amazon had let its plans for a bookstore outside of Boise, Idaho, fall through. The store had been announced in March when Amazon filed the initial permits, but Amazon never followed through on completing the paperwork, and according to the landlord is no longer interested in the location.

This reminded me that about a month ago Amazon opened an "Amazon 4-star" store outside of Denver. According to what I found back in March, the location was going to be an Amazon Books location (and I reported it as such) but apparently Amazon changed its mind.

And then there’s Atlanta.

Last November I reported that Amazon was opening a bookstore at the Lenox Square Mall. Amazon had filed construction permits for that location for an Amazon Books store, but I confirmed this morning that public records show Amazon never followed through on completing the permits, nor have they opened the store.

Once is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence, but three times  – well, that is a trend.

Amazon opened its first bookstore in Seattle in 2015.  It currently lists 18 16 open and 2 planned Amazon Books locations on its website. The newest store opened in Bethesda, MD, in June, and the two stores under development could very well be Amazon’s last two bookstores.

Update: Amazon has updated their site since I published this post. They changed the list of Amazon Books locations, which is why I crossed out the sentences above. Also, the Cherry Creek Amazon Books location in Denver is not yet listed. Amazon won’t discuss it, so this might be the 4th bookstore Amazon cancels.

Bookstores are no longer the apple in Amazon’s eye; instead, the retailer is focused on opening cashier-less Amazon Go stores. There are reports that Amazon is meeting with multiple airport authorities to discuss putting Amazon Go stores in airports (FOIA requests are wonderful).

These stores would almost be upsized versions of the vending machines Amazon first started installing in airports and malls four or five years ago, and they might even carry a few books. But they won’t be bookstores.

Amazon was queried before this post was written, and I will update this post if they say anything interesting.

image by anokarin via Flickr

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DaveMich December 7, 2018 um 1:12 pm

Inquiring minds sort of wonder what the financial results are from those existing bookstores.

Richard Hershberger December 7, 2018 um 2:10 pm

Very interesting. I haven’t been in an Amazon bookstore, but from the accounts I have read they sound pretty useless as bookstores. They come across as the bastard lovechild of a brick and mortar store with the tech love of algorithms to select the inventory, loading up with whatever is trending rather than having any sort of coherent selection. I can see how a tech bro would think this was a good idea, but that doesn’t make it so.

This looks to me like the typical pattern of large tech companies to throw a bunch of ideas out there, good bad or indifferent, to see what sticks. Anything not wildly successful and the company will lose interest and wander off.

In tangentially related news, Barnes & Noble recently opened one of their experimental stores just down the road from me. I checked it out a couple of days ago. It was plausible: considerably smaller than a typical B&N, but larger than most indies. Most of the space was legitimately devoted to books. There was the inevitable cafe, and areas with greetings cards and games, plus some odds and ends scattered around. But mostly books. No music or video. It felt like a bookstore, not a tchotchke store with some books, too. I doubt that they can recreate the genuine indie bookstore feel. I didn’t see anyone working there who seemed like a plausible person to ask for assistance, and I didn’t pursue that. I’m certainly not suggesting that this will turn B&N around. But they managed to put together a plausible bookstore. I bought a book on the rise of Rome.

Nate Hoffelder December 7, 2018 um 2:52 pm

Where was the new B&N?

Richard Hershberger December 7, 2018 um 3:39 pm

Columbia, Maryland

Mike Cane December 7, 2018 um 3:47 pm

Eh. There’s a new B&N here too but on the other side of the Island not worth the trip for me. FWIW, Amazon’s 34th St NYC bookstore seems to be well-used.

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