Friday, 6 November 2015

Amazon's first bookstore

Amazon's first physical bookstore has attracted attention. Dan Kurtz, working in independent publishing, fixated on 'human contact' and the curation of content, found the store bizarre. I don't think there is anything bizarre here - this is another calculated step by Amazon to buttress demand for their online services. Sam Machkovech, at Ars Technica, I believe, gets it right that this isn't a bookstore in the conventional sense. Amazon is showcasing its hardware and a selection of books, to attract users to buy into their online empire. This is consistent with Amazon's hardware strategy of developing hardware as a conduit for, for example, Amazon Prime; selling hardware, in itself, isn't the objective. Hence something like the Amazon Echo can be a Bluetooth speaker but also a means to listen to a purchased book from the Amazon-owned Audible or to order soap from Amazon.com. To demonstrate continuity in this strategy, the Amazon Fire Phone, which flopped, was criticised for being a window to buy products from Amazon and then a phone.

This showcasing approach to the Seattle bookstore is the opposite strategy to a traditional bookseller like Foyles. In the case of Foyles, an online presence is secondary, if that, and only there to guide customers to their physical store. Foyles know they can't compete with Amazon on price, so focus on in-store experiences such as a cafe or organising readings by hosting authors. Amazon, on the other hand, direct customers to utilise their online presence, in every conceivable way, including when looking-up the price of items. What we have is the opposite of what many booksellers would view the purpose of a bookstore but that is the point of Amazon's experiment.

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