Sometimes what you never thought you’d ever see happens right in front of you.

Like many of us, I have watched Amazon enter the marketplace, devouring small, independent bookstores and crushing the big box stores as well. Amazon can sell just about anything to anyone and get it there in two days for free. Sounds much more like an organization focused on generating revenues and quarterly earnings and not so much on literature. And so, I have approached Amazon with caution, trying to stay open-minded, but leaning to the side of the independents.  Recently I visited a place I never thought could possibly exist. An Amazon brick and mortar book store. I walked in wanting to not like the place. However, I have to say, I left pretty impressed. But let me give you a bit more background on where I’m coming from and then I’ll give you a quick tour.

 

Recently I visited a place I never thought could possibly exist.

An Amazon brick and mortar book store.

When Champagne Books published my first novel, TOXIC RELATIONSHIP, I was a happy little author. I could go to the online stores at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble to find the ebook available. After a sufficient number of ebook titles sold, the publisher put out a paperback edition as well. And so, with books in hand, I went to Barnes & Noble in Austin where I had lived for many years, and the setting for the novel. I planned to speak with the manager, who would happily have an Austin author (yes, I had moved to Seattle, but just by a couple of years) come into his store to promote the novel and do a signing. After offering my best pitch, the manager gave me an unexpected answer. “No.” Champagne didn’t work through the major distributors for paper books and even though the book had an ISBN number and I had a box of books I would happily sell and have B & N take it’s cut–no go. And furthermore, if someone saw the book and bought it online at the Barnes & Noble.com, the manager’s store would not get anything out of the sale. And so he reiterated, “No.” I recall leaving wondering how long B & N would survive with such a fragmented business plan.

And now we come to the present day in Seattle as I wander into the very first Amazon brick and mortar bookstore.

When I walked into the store, a staff member greeted me, Apple Store style, with a welcome and giving me a quick lay of the land. Moving deeper into the space, the first thing I noticed was the orientation of the books, cover out, rather than the typical spine out. Stacking books on shelves spine out allows a store to have more titles in stock, but seeing the cover and just having fewer books in the line of sight at one time made for a more pleasant and reflective shopping experience. And in front of each book is a brief description. Obviously, Amazon can only display a few thousand books in this manner, but there as certain feeling of abundance about it. They know and I know there are millions of titles out there, accessible online, but here is a selection of the current crop. Want to find out about more titles for an author? Explore other authors in the genre? Just pull out your phone and get online.

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One of the two stacks of sci-fi fantasy shelves. Each book is cover out and has a brief description below.

Or wander over to the ample reading space, pick up a spare Kindle and check out a book or a magazine or a game.

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The reading area has a wall of cushioned bench seating. Kindles are accessible on the small tables.

The store is laid out in the typical fashion by genre and sub genre and a children’s books area with bean bag chairs and tables. The cover out display here helps an adult scan the titles as you look for the right book for your child or grandchild.

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Kid sized bean bag chairs and a kid sized table and chairs provides some reading space for children.

So I walked in not wanting to like this too much. But I’ve got to say, as you would expect a master retailer to do, they pretty muchIMG_3019 nailed the brick and mortar bookstore. The openness of the place is striking. Here’s the vibe of the store: Come in. Browse. Take pictures. Scan codes. Compare prices anywhere. Pick up a book, wander over to a bench, and read. Grab a Kindle and explore. Buy something here, buy it online, or don’t buy anything. Thanks for hanging out with us. Aren’t books cool?

 

I’m a big ebook reader, so most of my books are digital these days, but I still appreciate the the feel of a good book, the smell of books on a shelf, and I still have so many books stacked every which way on too many bookshelves in my house that I could open my own library. I’ll still buy online or at my local independent. But when I’m in the vicinity of the Amazon store, I’ll probably drop in, browse, maybe buy something there or online and just take in the ambiance.

 

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