Amazon Books: The Store (No, Really!)

Amazon In Real Life

Last Spring, while shopping at UTC in La Jolla, a construction facade blew my mind.

It was announcing a new bookstore.  An Amazon bookstore.  I didn’t know what to think about that.  Amazon embarking on brick-and-mortar seemed a bit uncharacteristic.

All the same, I found myself giddy when the store opened. I LOVE bookstores, but this was a different kind of bookstore.  Definitely something new. And something very Amazon.


Shopping in the Amazon Books

The store is not huge, which surprised me since I had acclimated to Barnes and Noble and Borders; Amazon Books is more the size of Waldenbooks or B. Dalton — the mall bookstores of old.

(Yes, child, these bookstores existed once in every mall.  Those were swallowed up by the mega-bookstores that were then devoured by the leviathan known only as Amazon.)

Upon entering, I artfully dodged the salesperson and started perusing. I didn’t want anything or anyone between me and the books. Usually, going to a bookstore is like panning for gold, there are treasures, but they are often wedged between the sub-par. Finding them takes time and work. Here, the treasures were plentiful and prominently displayed, like in a jewelry store.  Every book called to me, promising knowledge, mirth, or challenge.

I heard the sales associate ask some other customer “Is this your first time?” and then she explained that all of the books in the store are there because they were bestsellers on Amazon or very highly rated by readers on Amazon or Goodreads. They stock the store with the best of their best, the things everyone wants to see most.  Not only that, but every book on every shelf faces outwards so that the cover can be seen by the customer, and below it, an informative review reprinted from the website.

Not to be forgotten — Kindles, Kindle Fires, Echos, and other Amazon devices took up the front right section of the store.

At the checkout, I swiped my debit card and the register instantly recognized me as an Amazon Prime member. Amazon Prime members get the online price of any product. Non-members get the website price for electronics but pay list price for books. The discount on one of my books pretty much made the second one free.

Amazon’s New Experiment

According to their website, Amazon has opened up three bookstores in the United States: San Diego (La Jolla), Portland, and Seattle. The store in Boston is due to open soon.

I don’t know anything about the neighborhoods they picked in other cities, but La Jolla is home to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and it is the Beverly Hills of San Diego. By choosing Westfield UTC over other malls like Fashion Valley, they are marketing to the intellectuals and the “movers and shakers,” as well as the college students.

Continuing with the approach that “Amazon is a store without walls,” the company sees the store as just one more way to encounter their customers, effectively avoiding the trap of becoming their own competition. You can do anything in the store that you can online, but here you can touch, caress book covers, take in their aroma.

Amazon dramatically increased the odds that I will be purchasing more of their books. I had never seen many of them before, but now I want them like the paparazzi wants a Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston reunion.

Good job, Amazon.

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