Years after driving many brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business, Amazon is opening one of those stores in its home city of Seattle, WA.
Apparently, the company aims to differentiate itself from other physical bookstores by focusing its sales on books that have been the most heavily-reviewed on its website and on books that have had the most pre-orders online.
That plan is a shrewd one, but it carries some risks. We’ve all walked into a bookstore in search of a particular title but had to make our way past piles and shelves of books we weren’t interested in in order to find it. Amazon’s narrow focus is going to put those most-sought-after titles right out there for people to see, and the pre-ordered titles may be available to Amazon Books customers before other bookstores get their hands on them. The risks are that the narrow focus on certain kinds of books may make the overall shopping experience too shallow and not worth the bother. Another risk is further damage to its credibility. Amazon is already fighting a battle online to preserve the integrity, honesty, and usefulness of its customer reviews. Just because a book has been reviewed–even well reviewed–on the site doesn’t mean people will automatically buy it. Amazon will have to put some thought behind the books that it features on its shelves. The aim seems to be to use pre-orders to attack the market for books put out by big publishing houses and reviewed books for titles that may not have sold well online.
Even if the company doesn’t need to make money from the venture, it will have to offer something innovative, something fresh in the new stores. At first blush, it doesn’t sound like Amazon Books will be a very browsable store, a place created with readers in mind. If that’s true, the venture will fail. If it is not true, if Amazon can make reviewed and pre-ordered books the cornerstone of the business, or if they can eventually create stores that are as well thought out for book lovers as their Kindle Readers have been, then their branded bookstores can succeed.