Home » Amazon, Bookstores » Amazon Should Leave Brick-And-Mortar To The Little Guys

Amazon Should Leave Brick-And-Mortar To The Little Guys

31 October 2016

From WBUR:

Beloved or reviled, Amazon has become a regular player in our consumer experience. Already famous for having a hand in putting many a small bookshop (and other stores) out of business, the online retailer has expanded its presence into the non-digital arena.

Amazon has already opened actual bookstores — what the company calls Amazon Books — in Seattle and San Diego. Plans are afoot to launch more retail locations in Portland, Chicago and New York City.

And yes, also Boston.

Home to one of the nation’s most vibrant indie bookseller scenes, Greater Boston will be the site of an Amazon Books branch in Dedham at the Legacy Place shopping center, opening sometime in 2017.

Since Amazon’s founding in 1994 at the dawn of the internet, we’ve all learned to coexist with this behemoth — and not just grumpy book lovers like me whose mantra has been to support the little guy. But this latest move is ironic. Amazon is sending its slithery tendrils into the very sphere it helped to decimate, the brick-and-mortar book business.

. . . .

As a former bookseller myself, I lament these events. Must Amazon nose in on the very territory that indie bookstores have cultivated for decades? In less generous moods, I complain to the heavens — or, perhaps, to “the cloud” — when is enough, enough? Can’t you be satisfied with dominating online sales?

. . . .

To be sure, the Boston branch poses no immediate threat to our hometown favorites. Amazon Books is headed to what some might call an already soulless shopping center, the luxury Legacy Place, where there’s nary an indie for miles. It’s not like Amazon Books is invading Harvard Square. Not yet.

. . . .

I recently attended the New England Independent Booksellers Association conference in Providence, where I spoke with many booksellers. I ran into a colleague who is opening an indie bookstore in Belmont next spring. Despite the always uncertain climate for indie shops, he’s taking a chance and putting his savings on the line.

But here’s the rub: More may be lost when Amazon expands its kudzu-like growth everywhere. The online chain’s impact threatens to be even more catastrophic to communities than when Barnes & Noble took over more than 700 college bookstores nationwide, sticking it to students by turning a profit on the lucrative textbook market.

. . . .

It’s an outrage since much of the indies’ recent success is due to being creative and attentive to their customer base. They’ve added cafes, bolstered community outreach, and offered a robust series of events and loyalty programs. Wanna bet that Amazon will eventually try to duplicate this very formula?

Link to the rest at WBUR

PG wonders whether the local indie cafes, a first rung on the ladder to financial security for so many recent immigrants, were considered by the indie bookstores before the bookstores opened their own cafes.

Amazon, Bookstores

18 Comments to “Amazon Should Leave Brick-And-Mortar To The Little Guys”

  1. “Amazon will try to duplicate this very formula?” Hell, man, Amazon invented that very formula and your species is attempting to adapt, maybe too late, maybe not.

  2. Amazon works on the principle of 1) seeing something done badly – and 2) doing it much better.

    There are a lot of businesses being run badly for it to choose from.

  3. “when Barnes & Noble took over more than 700 college bookstores nationwide, sticking it to students by turning a profit”

    Because everyone knows that no business should ever turn a profit.

  4. “slithery tendrils”

    “kudzu-like growth”

    “soulless shopping center”

    Sour grapes make lots of whine.

  5. Ah, the good old “successful enough” argument.
    Because people should throttle their abilities and be less than they can be so as to spare others the effort of trying to do better.
    Like the folks complaining that Rowling keeps writing and selling books.

    They make Ayn Rand look prescient.

  6. Poor guy and his sour grapes that Amazon is showing him and other how to do ‘it’ rather than doing ‘it’ wrong.

  7. Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better. –Jim Rohn

    • But that takes ‘effort’ and might also cost money/profits, and he doesn’t want to work that hard for it.

      • Yes. There is also a saying that “A wish is a goal without any energy behind it.” Although wishing to be better would be a better first step for many Amazon detractors than complaining is, one also has to go beyond wishing to putting in the effort and making the sacrifices (which may include losing some or temporarily all of one’s margin). Maybe it should be “Don’t wish it were easier. Become better.” I think Rohn’s version is catchier, but wishing by itself won’t do much.

  8. There is a very odd notion that books and people who deal in them are special. They aren’t. Just like widget makers.

    • Everybody thinks that what they do is special and important.
      They’re all equally right. 🙂

  9. I live 1.4 miles from Harvard Square. Just so we’re all clear, there are hardly any bookstores left in the Square. Used to have the largest collection of bookstores per square foot in the world, but most of them have closed down since. The Harvard Bookstore is the only general bookstore there now. Sure, there’s the Coop, and the children’s books in the Curious George store, and the comic book shop the Million Year Picnic.

    But that’s about all.

    Also, an Amazon store would be a welcome development there, especially since the trend is increasingly toward “stores I can also find in the mall.”

    • Perhaps WBUR would want to hear your thoughts, Gene, particularly if you make a pledge. 🙂

    • My understanding is that the Curious George bookstore has lost its lease and will be either closing or relocating in the near future. And it is very unlikely to find a new home anywhere near Harvard Square.

      When my son was very young we took him to the Curious George bookstore. Honestly it wasn’t worth the trip. It seemed to me like the kids section of a Barnes & Noble separated from the rest of the store, and without the usual convenient parking.

      • I’ve heard the same thing, yes. Back in the day, there was a bookstore in the Square called Wordsworth, and Curious George was an offshoot of that store. Then Wordsworth closed, and CG is all that’s left from those owners.

  10. I don’t expect the whinging to stop any time soon. I find that most smaller book stores are either conventional retail outlets doing little or nothing different to any other retail stores. Then there is the minority which strive to outdo each other in quirkiness. Usually they showcase a love of books, at least of the paper variety. They often have author signings, well read staff who make recommendations. They run book clubs. They will avoid the shopping malls and their high rents and seek premises which are unique or have “character”. The smell of paper books permeate their premises and waft out into the street, drawing in paper book enthusiasts like odours of delicious food draw in restaurant patrons. Some, I am told, even have pet animals roaming the shelves. They strive to become an integral part of their local community and its culture. They don’t sell ebooks, and they don’t discount their dead tree books, though I do suspect that some staff members on their break, being avid readers, guiltily take out their Kindle or Kobo for a bit of illicit reading pleasure.

    And these latter category of stores have little to fear from Amazon. They cater for a niche market which I suspect is becoming smaller by the days. Amazon haters will shop there. Those for whom shopping for books is some sort of orgy of the senses will continue to shop there.

    But these stores hold little attraction for me. I don’t value the experience that they are selling in addition to books. When I buy a book I want to do it from the comfort of my home from my computer, often at night when it suits me. I like the variety which physical stores cannot match. I like to receive the book instantly. I like to be able to search electronically. I don’t need recommendations from staff who have no idea what I like to read and whose taste in books is unlikely to match my own. I’m allergic to dust and animal hair. And most of all? I want the best price. Not least because it means I get more books for my dollar.

    Let’s fact it. Amazon retail book stores are not going to attract this demographic or even try to. There is room for a certain number of these stores in the market. And I hope this continues to be the case. Whilst I personally don’t value the experience these stores offer, there are people who do. If there are sufficient numbers of them these stores will survive.

  11. Barristas United requests the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division investigate bookstores containg coffee shops for illegal anticompetive competion with indepedent coffee shops.

    PS We are sending this overnight via Fed-Ex

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.