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Amazon Just Opened An Actual Bookstore in Seattle

And just like its online marketplace, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar shop aims to shake up the industry

(Amazon)
smithsonian.com

For years, Amazon has been a bastion of online book sales. The company revolutionized the publishing industry, challenged big-box bookstores and sparked a longstanding debate about the need to support local, independent sellers. But now, reports Jay Greene for the Seattle Times, Amazon is dipping its toe into the world of brick-and-mortar retail with an actual bookstore in Seattle. 

The new bookstore, Amazon Books, is located in Seattle's University Village. The tech giant plans to use its famous troves of data about reader habits to stock the store with books that sell quickly, a tactic Amazon Books' vice president, Jennifer Cast, describes to Greene as "data with heart."

The store, which is stocked with roughly 6,000 books, looks different than your average shop—every single book is displayed with its cover exposed. It's part of a strategy GeekWire's Taylor Soper calls a "minimalist approach." Amazon Books won't stock a collection as large as other stores, but instead, will focus on the books that are most likely to sell. There might be something to the tactic: A 2014 study of libraries found that circulation increased by 58 percent when books were displayed with covers facing out. Crucially, the display strategy also circumvents an age-old industry practice of paying to prominently display books on shelves.

The irony of Amazon opening a real-life bookstore wasn't lost on publishing insiders, who often criticize the retailer for undercutting independent sellers. The Bookseller's Philip Jones notes that "much of what Amazon has so far said about the store is anathema to 'real' booksellers." The launch will surely generate interest from curious readers, but will it spell doom for Amazon's scrappy independent competition? As the New York Times' Alexandra Alter wrote in September, business is booming for the indies. Maybe they'll be too busy to worry.

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