10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT NEW AMAZON BOOKS STORE
Amazon Books opened its first Texas store at the Domain Northside last month. Here’s a guide to help you know what to expect.
Why would Amazon open a bookstore?
As evidenced by the purchase of more than 400 Whole Foods stores, Amazon is investing heavily in physical retail outlets, despite its dominance as an online company. The 4,800-square-foot bookstore at the Domain Northside, which opened in March, is an effort to turn the online book-buying experience, where shoppers often go to buy a specific title, into a brick-and-mortar experience, where they can browse and discover books they might not have initially sought out.
What kind of books are for sale?
Amazon has said that the Amazon Books stores have about 3,800 titles, almost all of which have ratings above 4 stars. A national Amazon Books team decides what to sell in each store based on customer reviews and online ratings, as well as data from Kindle users, whose reading habits the company can track, down to the most frequently highlighted passages. At the Austin store, that insider info helps them curate a Highly Quotable section — books most frequently highlighted by Kindle customers – and Page Turners — books Kindle readers finish in three days or less. You’ll also find sections for the most-wished-for books on Amazon and books with more than 10,000 reviews.
Can you find local authors?
For all the talk about how much these physical stores will help readers discover new authors, it’s difficult to find up-and-coming or even established local authors. You’ll find a shelf of books for travel lovers who live in Austin or fiction books that sell well in Austin, but no shelves featuring books from only Austin authors. For instance, the Nonfiction Top Sellers in Austin shelf recently had Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” and “The Wisdom of Sundays” by Oprah Winfrey, while Austinite Ernest Cline’s book “Ready Player One” could be found on a nearby Hot Right Now shelf.
Are there registers?
Yes. Unlike the Amazon Go
food stores in Seattle, where the company is testing technology that would allow users to leave with their items without checking out, the Amazon Books stores have registers, where you can pay with cards or an Amazon Prime account. No cash, though.
How high-tech is the store?
Less than you might expect. Each book features a printed card that shares a review from an Amazon user (or the Amazon curation team), as well as the average star rating and the number of reviews on the site, but no price. To find out how much the book costs for Prime members, you have to scan the bar code on the card with your phone or take the book to one of the scanners spread throughout the store. If you do not have an Amazon Prime account, you’ll pay the list price on the back of the book.
Do you have to have Amazon Prime to shop there?
No, but if you do, you’ll pay the same price as it is listed for online. You can use the Amazon app on your phone to approve the purchase without using a card at the checkout.
How much are the books?
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, the books cost the price listed on the back, which is how BookPeople and many other independent bookstores price their inventory. A Prime membership costs $99 a year, and the discounts range from just a few percent to more than 50 percent off the list price.
Will the store host events?
Unlikely. Book signings and readings are a big draw at many traditional bookstores, but Amazon doesn’t let the individual stores have their own Facebook pages, and on a recent visit, we didn’t see any promotion of upcoming talks. On Amazon.com, you can sign up for email updates about the Austin store, which is where they would announce events if they introduced them.
Can I buy a tablet while I’m there?
Electronic devices, including the Fire tablets and Echo and Dot speakers, are for sale, and they take up more space than you might expect in a bookstore. Shoppers can test dozens of gadgets that are on display in a large area near the front of the store, and in the children’s section, you’ll find nearly half a dozen tablets attached to the small tables. As you browse the physical books on the shelves, you’ll find Kindles everywhere, yet another reminder that you’re not in a traditional bookstore.
What about a blender?
Oddly, yes. The Amazon Books store sells Vitamix and NutriBullet blenders, an espresso machine that you plug in and another that works on a stove top, no electricity (or internet) required. You’ll also find some board games, toys and other easily giftable items.
To help encourage shoppers to interact with the physical books, Amazon Books displays books with the covers facing outward. The card below the book doesn’t feature a price, but it shows how many stars a book has received online and a sample review from an Amazon user.
The new Amazon Books store at Domain Northside feels like a traditional bookstore in many ways, with some differences, including a cashless register.
Amazon Prime members pay less than the list price on books. To find out how much a book costs, customers have to use the Amazon app on their phones or a scanner in the store to scan the bar code.