10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT NEW AMA­ZON BOOKS STORE

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ad­die Broyles abroyles@states­man.com

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.

AD­DIE BROYLES / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

AD­DIE BROYLES / AMERICANSTATESMAN PHO­TOS

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.

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