The unthinkable happened; Amazon, the online juggernaut which started out as a bookstore, opened their doors in their new brick-and-mortar store. Yes, you read that right: Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar store. It’s hard to believe, impossible to digest but this actually happened. Known for their overwhelming consumer power online, the retail giant has now occupied space in University Village in Seattle. Perhaps this quote from BuzzFeed sums up how indie bookstores feel about Amazon’s recent acquisition: “Amazon just convinced us to divorce our wife then married her.”
Now doesn’t this make for a delicious dish of irony? Amazon, which caused so many indie bookstores to close their doors because of their notoriously low prices, free shipping and convenience at the click of a button, now finds themselves selling physical books to customers in an actual bookstore! Of course, it wasn’t long before the indie bookstores had a little fun with them. For one, Paul Constant of the Seattle Review of Books offered a challenge to anyone who would ‘showcase’ one of Amazon’s books and then buy it from an indie bookstore. Allison Stieger answered the call by finding the book at the Amazon store, but buying it at Queen Anne Books, a local bookstore. Take that Big A! This has been a method Amazon has used to their advantage, so it was nice to see the tables being turned for once.
Who knows how long Amazon’s physical store will stay in service. A year? A month? A week? It doesn’t look to be a ‘pop up’ store, where businesses set up in vacant retail space for a short amount of time. They’re in it for the long haul, it seems. With that, you would think the other brick-and-mortar bookstore, Barnes and Noble, would feel threatened by this move, right? It’s not enough that Amazon’s new store is located in a mall where they used to be (link at bottom), but now with 647 stores and counting, BN’s latest weapon against its ruthless competitor seems to be – coloring books.
This revelation comes to you courtesy of Adweek.com:
But Barnes & Noble does have one obvious advantage that dot-com competitors don’t, and that’s spacious, comfortable stores—647 of them at last count—stores that the chain has gotten extremely good at turning into event spaces, most often for book signings with bestselling authors or celebrities hawking their latest tell-all tomes. But on Nov. 14, Barnes & Noble will be staging its most colorful event yet: All of its stores are inviting adults to come in, sit down and color.
Yes, as in crayons, pencils, markers and coloring books. Between noon and 5 p.m., anyone can wander in and regress to an activity lost to childhood. The company is calling it the All-American Art Unwind.
Barnes and Noble will encourage attendees to submit their drawings to Instagram or Twitter for submission to “a huge mosaic that a computer program will create from thousands of expected submissions.” The bookstore is gambling the experience will bring more interactivity that will be the hook for supporters to keep coming back – one they hope will keep their stores open for the long run. It would be easy to knock this, it really would. However, one wonders if Amazon will expand from the one store in Seattle to across the nation. If and when that happens, Barnes and Noble might be in serious trouble.
Amazon is Corporate America personified. The irony is that while they’ve encouraged self-published authors to have more of a say in their written works, the outlets like indie bookstores and their closest competitor Barnes and Noble have suffered. How long will it be before Amazon dominates the entire literary market and completely guides the destinies of many authors in the field? Time will tell if Amazon Books is a passing fancy, or the beginning of the end.
Charles L. Chatmon
President, Chatmon’s Books
The Seattle Review of Books – Independent bookstore fan showrooms Amazon Books
BuzzFeed: Here’s Why People Are Upset At Amazon’s New Seattle Bookstore
Amazon is opening its first bookstore today—in a mall where a giant Barnes & Noble used to be