Back in the late 1990s when the internet was just getting started there was this online bookstore called Amazon. Have you heard of it? It was great, it was a place where you could go online and buy books, get information on them and have them shipped right to your doorstep without the hassle and price of a regular bookstore.
Fast forward 20 years or so and the online bookstore that became THE online mega store has embarked on its first real world store in Seattle. The aptly named Amazon Books will sell, you guessed it, books but it will also serve as a platform for Amazon to sell its other products such as its Prime service as well as Kindle.
Why now? Why at all?
It is safe to say that Amazon changed the game when it comes to selling books. In fact, it is safe to say that Amazon has changed the publishing industry as a whole, turning a hundred year old industry on its head and changing the way we read and our relationship with books. So why open a physical store when its basis was around getting rid of the old style bookstore?
Jennifer Cast, the vice-president of Amazon Books has said of the store that “Our goal is to do a great job selling lots of books.” And, while that is likely true Amazon already does this. There is clearly more to the store than meets the eye.
And this is likely nothing more than a great PR exercise.
The store is located in Seattle’s University Village Outdoor Mall which did have a bookstore once, a Barnes and Noble in fact before it shut down largely, one would assume, thanks to the increased competition from Amazon.
This store then is saying to the traditional stores ‘we did it our way and we did it better’. After all Amazon is no longer a bookstore and hires engineers, app developers, UX designers, PR gurus and more in addition to the regular retail arm of the company. If a business is ever said to have ‘made’ it, Amazon is that business.
Toe to toe
Furthermore Amazon’s physical store puts it within walking distance of other flagship stores from competitors like Apple and Google. Again, from a PR and branding perspective Amazon is effectively joining the party among its tech peers with a uniquely Amazon experience.
With Amazon reviews accompanying the books as well as space for other Amazon affiliated companies such as Goodreads, the store promises to be a real life PR exercise that sells books as cheaply as you would find online.
The move is not so much a bold one from Amazon but a truly smart one. There are no current plans for the stores to expand for instance and this is something of a way for Amazon to get closer to readers and re-engage as a community-focused business rather than always receive negative publicity. The store then while not technological certainly is logical for a variety of reasons and it does show that even digitally focused businesses should not forget about the real world.