Home » Amazon, Bookstores, Photography » We Shopped at Amazon’s Chicago Bookstore: Here’s What It Was Like

We Shopped at Amazon’s Chicago Bookstore: Here’s What It Was Like

22 July 2017

From Nasdaq:

Many have lauded the recent opening of Amazon.com’s eight brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. as a death blow to independent bookstores. Since its launch in 1995 as an online retailer of books, Amazon has been blamed for the closing of bookstores nationwide because thanks to its wide-selection and low prices.

In an act of irony, the online retail giant has decided that its next step in its massive growth is to open brick-and-mortar bookstores where consumers can buy products in person. Amazon opened its first physical bookstore in 2015 in Seattle and has since opened seven more, including one in Chicago’s Southport Corridor this past March.

As an avid book reader, and a lover of independent bookstores, I had my trepidations about visiting the new Amazon Books in Chicago. To see what kind of competition Amazon Books poses for bookstores in the Second City, I decided to head up to the Lakeview neighborhood and witness this new phenomenon for myself.

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As the first Amazon Books in the Midwest, the Amazon Bookstore is a blend of a bookstore, electronics store, and a coffee shop. The bookstore was sleek and modern, but it felt impersonal-like an airport gift shop. In some ways, the store felt like the Amazon website had come to life.

Jennifer Cast, a vice president at Amazon Books, said that Amazon wanted to embrace its roots as a bookseller with these new stores. “We also realized we had an opportunity to create a new kind of store and create a different experience in a physical world. Our special sauce is knowing the reading habits and passions of a city through our Amazon.com data,” Cast said.

. . . .

The books are organized by the common literature genres, but the store also has special categories meant to appeal to Amazon customers. One of my favorite shelves was “Page Turners: Books Kindle Readers Finish in 3 Days or Less.”

. . . .

The most important feature about Amazon Books wasn’t the books, but the company’s Prime membership.

The store clearly made the shopping experience worthwhile for anyone that currently subscribes to a Prime membership for $99-a-year. Throughout the store, price check machines stood ready. When I tried one book, it showed me the difference in price based on whether I had a Prime account or not.

A Prime member could also obtain exclusive Amazon Prime Day deals at store locations. This year, Amazon had its most successful Prime Day yet. At its eight bookstores, it offered special deals on Microsoft MSFT Xbox Ones, Joule Sous Vide Precision Cookers, Osmo Genius Kits, and Philips Smart LED bulbs.

. . . .

Many people go to Apple stores and Best Buy in order to test out new technology before making expensive purchases. With this new testing site, Amazon is clearly trying to encourage consumers to commit to its voice-activated, Alexa-enabled devices that can play music, control home devices, make phone calls, and more.

A few workers constantly roamed the store and offered to help me try out the devices as I looked at them. The store also offers “Flash Course,” 5-7 minute tutorials on how to use the technology, every Friday through Sunday.

. . . .

And if anyone should be worried about new Amazon bookstore, it won’t be indie booksellers.

Readers who are willing and able to pay for the price and experience of independent bookstores will continue to do so. Chicago favorites, like Women and Children First in Andersonville and Myopic Books in Wicker Park, won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. At least, not because of Amazon’s physical bookstores.

Link to the rest at Nasdaq 

PG predicts that if the author visits a B&M bookstore in a year, she’ll have about the same experience as she would today, but a visit to an Amazon bookstore next year will result in some new and innovative experiences.

PG is certain he’s not alone in his enjoyment of visiting and revisiting museums, but he tends to seek out new experiences more frequently.

Speaking of museums, PG took the following photo when he visited a museum with his posterity a few days ago. He processed it so it looked a bit more ominous than the original and showed it to selected older progeny, who thought it was wonderful.

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Amazon, Bookstores, Photography

16 Comments to “We Shopped at Amazon’s Chicago Bookstore: Here’s What It Was Like”

  1. That is swell photo, PG. I’m surprised museum staff let you take pics.

  2. PG, if you could figure out how to print that image onto black velvet, you’d really have something to hang on your wall.

  3. Ans that, children, is why you cannot go past the fence and pet Mr. Hippo.

    I’m not surprised that the book store “felt like the Amazon web-sire come to life.” It is part of the Amazon brand, so why not? I don’t shop Amazon because it has lovely age-darkened wood paneling and cathedral ceilings.

  4. If I recall correctly, more people are killed by hippos in Africa than any of the large predators.

    Ain’t safe down by the waterhole.

  5. That would really be something in a dentist’s office.

  6. Ashe Elton Parker

    I used to think Hippos were kind of cute. LOL

    Fantastic picture, PG.

  7. Caption, “Big Publishing House writer contract”

  8. Readers who are willing and able to pay for the price and experience of independent bookstores will continue to do so.

    Drovers who are willing and able to pay for the price and experience of fine buggy whips will continue to patronize independent saddlery shops.

  9. PG, I hope this finds you recovering from the terrible losses I read about earlier this year. It’s good to see you blogging again and the Passive Voice chock full of the fascinating tidbits you are so good at delivering.

    I offer this thought in the vein of others I’ve left in response to your comments on bookstore news.

    Respectfully, I detect that you have a bias.

    While I’m all for novel, new, or simply alternate visions of what book buying can be, I don’t think that means that current models must be relegated to old, stodgy dinosaur status, nor that the book lovers keeping them alive have to be like your Great Aunt Martha who smells a bit and doesn’t remember to charge her phone.

    I’ve been to close to 1000 independent bookstores across this country, some of them as sleek and shining as any cool website, some of them offering the kind of quaint, “slow-reading” experience that could make one say, “Everything old is new again,” or, “La plus ca change…”

    Often when I weigh in here, I find myself wanting to say, There’s room enough for us all.

    But your likening of bookstores to five and dime’s–which of course are all over the place again in the slightly changed incarnation of a dollar store–is disrespectful to the many hip, mod, happening people who own, run, visit and shop at bookstores. Who are reinventing the model to make it work better. Or who love the original model, quirks and downsides aside (of which Amazon also has many–one thing that’s for sure is that there is no perfect mousetrap) without seeing it as a museum or an aunty on life support.

    There’s room enough for us all to thrive and grow young again via the power of the written word in whatever form we like to buy it.

    • I’m concerned that people are making poor economic decisions based on your feel-good hopes for the book market.

      Lets look at this re-invented bookstore in downtown Oakland California. It really does look like a nice place, maybe even sleek and all…

      http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Bookstore-on-the-brink-in-Oakland-s-revitalized-11297802.php

      “Every month that we don’t make enough, I have to make a decision about who has to wait” to be paid, said Stauss, whose store rent is $6,300 per month. “I have to look at my options at this point, and if I can’t catch up and get this stuff paid off, they probably won’t extend me much of a lease.”

      Stauss’ lease is up at the end of the month, and last week she sent a plea to the store’s email list. She needs to raise $30,000 to stay open.

      She does have a specific problem with foot traffic in her location. I feel bad for her, but not bad enough to go up there and buy a paper book. That’s someone else’s problem, and if they’re not doing their job, that’s too bad.

      What I see as a problem is the people who are tempted into p****** large sums of money away chasing a dream that isn’t going to work. In my opinion, the “paper is back, it was never going away” meme is harmful in a very real tangible way.

  10. Al the Great and Powerful

    This Nasdaq story is taking pot shots at Amazon, have you written to chide them too?

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