From The New Yorker:
On Thursday, Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in New York City, in Columbus Circle. It is situated on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, a baffling place that, on any given weekday, seems populated exclusively by tourists, sharply dressed professionals taking two-hour lunch meetings, and people with the aura of those C.G.I. figures in architectural renderings—people who are there just because they’re there. The books in the Amazon bookstore—assembled according to algorithm—feel like that, too. They exist far less to serve the desires of the reader than to serve the needs of Amazon, a company whose twenty-year campaign to “disrupt” bookstores has now killed off much of the competition, usurped nearly half of the U.S. book market, and brought it back, full circle, to books on shelves.
The Columbus Circle location is Amazon’s seventh bookstore, so far. It is reminiscent of an airport bookshop: big enough to be enticing from the outside but extremely limited once you’re inside. The volumes on display are spaced at a courteous distance from one another, positioned with their front covers facing out. Greeting customers, front and center, is a “Highly Rated” table, featuring books that have received 4.8 stars or above on Amazon.com, among them Trevor Noah’s memoir, Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, a book by the couple on the TV show “Fixer Upper,” and a book about kombucha. Other offerings are determined by digital metrics such as Goodreads reviews, Amazon sales, and pre-orders, and by input from the curators at Amazon Books. The store, in other words, is designed to further popularize, on Amazon, that which is already popular on Amazon.
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It will be clear by now that I am not the ideal customer for the Amazon bookstore in the Time Warner Center. This doesn’t stem, necessarily, from my dislike of Amazon itself. I support the company’s terrible labor practices by making active use of my Prime membership, and I’m generally happy to buy books anywhere—the Barnes & Noble near my old office; Greenlight, my local indie; or, if I need something obscure quickly, Amazon. But a central draw of Amazon’s online bookstore is its limitless selection, and it’s odd to see the company’s brick-and-mortar outpost offering such a limited mix.
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The store’s biggest shortcoming, though, is that it is so clearly not intended for people who read regularly. I normally walk into a bookstore and shop the way a person might shop for clothes: I know what I like, what generally works for me, what new styles I might be ready to try. It was a strange feeling, on Thursday, to do laps around a bookstore without feeling a single unexpected thrill. There were no wild cards, no deep cuts, no oddballs—just books that were already best-sellers, pieces of clothing I knew wouldn’t fit me or that I already owned.
Link to the rest at The New Yorker