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Amazon Opens a Manhattan Bookstore: a Round-Up

To the old-guard literati, New York City is a sacred place. High rents may have been driving bookstores over the last few decades, but Manhattan is still the holiest of holies.

So when Amazon defiled hallowed ground this week by opening a bookstore in Manhattan, the natives responded poorly.

That’s the only way I can explain Quartz’s coverage. Seriously, it reads like something you would find in or from the Melville House blog:

The cashless Columbus Circle store is founded on Amazon’s belief that people will want to discover (and buy) books that are rated highly on, with a barrage of in-person signs and data-driven shelving choices. But buying a book in the store is actually more expensive than purchasing on the site if you’re not a Prime member. The upshot is that, while the physical store succeeds as an ad for a Prime membership, it fails to be joyful, or even effective, as a bookstore.

The NY Post, which has apparently been ignoring all previous coverage of Amazon’s other bookstores, was shocked and dismayed to discover a bookstore that looked "like an airport desperation pit-stop":

Amazon may have finally killed the bookstore once and for all — by opening one.

The online retailer has launched New York’s first Amazon Books, a glorified airport stall located on the third floor at the Shops at Columbus Circle. Upstairs from Borders’ shuttered flagship bookstore, the cramped, 4,000-square-foot space takes no cash and has no listed prices.

You have to either scan the barcode with your phone or take the book to one of the store’s scattered kiosks. (Turns out, non-Amazon Prime members have to pay the list price, which is more expensive than buying the book at

I have to wonder whether either reporter brought along their annotated copy of Ulysses and used it to conduct an exorcism to rid the bookstore of the soul of Jeff Bezos, but I suppose they would have to believe he had a soul before making the attempt.

Fortunately, not all of the coverage was quite so overtly hostile. For example, The Guardian was more subtle in its bias. Yahoo News also visited the store during the press tour on Wednesday, but the one story you must read was published by Business Insider. They published a gallery of photos which amount to a virtual tour of the bookstore.

They published a gallery of photos which amount to a virtual tour of the bookstore, giving you the chance to look at the store and judge for yourself.

I haven’t had a chance to visit the New York store, although I plan to do so when I am in town for the Writer’s Digest conference in August.

While Amazon is leasing retail space in DC, we don’t know when it will open or whether it will be a bookstore. (Yes, that’s what the WaPo said it will be, but the space is being rented by Amazon Retail, not Amazon Books, and Amazon has not stated how it is using the space.)

image by Business Insider

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Tom Wood May 27, 2017 um 9:49 pm

Their attempt to blend the online experience with real life is interesting. I assume they hired a bricks-and-mortar retail specialist to advise about product placement in the physical environment, and blended that advice with what they already know about human behavior during the online purchase. That *should* work to their advantage, except – "Consistency is not a human trait." – Maude, from 'Harold and Maude'

The focus on 4+ star ratings and high number of reviews will drive a herd mentality toward a smaller selection. That’s a good thing for independent bookstores that depend on serendipity and staff recommendations. At some point Amazon could just dispense with the books on shelves format and go to touchscreens with robots that deliver the book to you while you wait.

Mark Williams – The International Indie Author May 28, 2017 um 4:11 am

So how many indie books published through CreateSpace are being stocked in Amazon bookstores?

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2017 um 8:17 am

all of them?

Lemondrop May 29, 2017 um 8:40 am

Good question that deserves an intelligent response. To what extent is Amazon physically (obviously) representing indie books published via Amazon?

Tom Wood May 29, 2017 um 9:14 am

I would expect to see Amazon’s own imprints in the physical bookstores first. What better way to entice indies who are breaking out to go with the Amazon imprints? "Yes, we can get your book on bookstore shelves."

lemondrop May 30, 2017 um 8:25 am

Yes, but are they?

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