Arts/Culture

Amazon Books Opens Its Doors to Customers and Bad Press

by Emily Ramser

Image via Flickr by Sam Cox

Image via Flickr by Sam Cox

Amazon has opened a bookstore, called Amazon Books, in Seattle. It is across the street from a Tommy Bahama in a little outside shopping mall on the edge of the University of Washington’s campus. The University’s own bookstore is just down the road. The outside of the new store is a brick façade with wide windows displaying the shelves. The inside looks, for the most part, like your average bookstore. It has hardwood floors and many bookshelves. The children’s section is carpeted and has a seating area. So, the question is, why do people not like Amazon Books?

Dustin Kurtz, a writer for New Republic, recently visited the store, which opened on November 3. After visiting it, he wrote an article entitled “My 2.5 Star Trip to Amazon’s Bizarre New Bookstore” on New Republic. The article, which has been shared on Facebook around 3,000 times at the posting of this piece, speaks negatively of the store. According to Kurtz, the design of the store overall is poor, as things are too close to each other and there is not enough room to really browse. Kurtz is not the only one to think lowly of Amazon’s new venue.

Mark Harris, who writes for Yahoo Tech, shared some of Kurtz’s views in his article “The Short Tail: Browsing Amazon’s First Brick-and Mortar Bookshop.” He describes the store as such, “from its industrial seating and classical Muzak to the towering wooden shelves and literary quotes on the walls, the elegantly minimal interior could be a movie set for a generic bookshop.”

As well, the way of shopping in the store has caused some, like ArsTechnica’s Sam Machkovech, to have “no desire to ever return.” Amazon Books does not rely on price tags like your average store. Instead, it uses barcodes that you scan using the Amazon smartphone app. The purpose of pricing as such is to allow for the prices online and in store to match up, but some customers like Machkovech feel that the technology dependence takes away from the community aspect most bookstores strive to encourage.

Some feel as if Amazon Books is not really a bookstore, but an advertising venue for Amazon itself. Issie Lapowsky from WIRED says, “Amazon Books is as much of a bookstore as it is a billboard.” The company is likely not going to make much money from the bookstore, but the publicity that is gained as a result of opening the store may recoup the costs due to the probability that many of the news articles may be driving readers directly to Amazon’s website.

Though each of these issues is valid, it seems like the real reason for all the animosity towards Amazon Books lies in the fact that many hold Amazon responsible for driving the traditional brick and mortar bookstore out of business. The Seattle Times even went so far as to say “Bookstore owners often think of Amazon.com as the enemy.”  By selling books online, Amazon was able to offer books at a much cheaper cost than competing indie bookstores, which caused many of the stores to inevitably go out of business. As such, many appear to be frustrated that Amazon is attempting to infringe on the business that it killed off.

What do you think of Amazon Books? Is it a store you would want to visit? Or perhaps, is it one you are going to steer clear of? Let us know in the comments below.


Emily Ramser, Editorial Assistant

Emily Ramser

Emily Ramser is an undergraduate studying English, Creative Writing, and Religion at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and is expected to graduate in May of 2017. Some of her inspirations include Thornton Wilder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bhanu Kapil, Andrea Gibson, Gabriel Gudding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gail Simone, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Check out her black out poetry collection I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me. You can find more of her work at her blog.

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