Friday Feels…Conflicted: My Thoughts on the New Amazon Bookshop

Friday feels…conflicted.

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So, corporate giant Amazon has opened a bookshop. A real, live bookshop. You know, a physical place that you can actually visit, and where it will probably be frowned upon to fill a basket with many wonderful things and leave it sitting there for weeks on end until you finally pluck up the courage to admit to yourslf that actually, you can’t afford all those things and eventually empty your basket, only to repeat the process again a few days later. I’m not the only one who does that, right? Well anyway, I’m guessing I wouldn’t get away with it in this brand spanking new store, which opened on the second of November in Seattle. Seattle, America, all the way across a massive ocean, so yep – a bit far for me to go, just to buy some books (‘just’? ‘just’? ‘Just’ is blasphemy!) but hey, at least I now know a grand total of two things about Seattle (the other being Frasier).

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The store is aptly named ‘Amazon Books’ (imaginative, that one), and sells, well, books of course, with a small section for book-related technology such as Amazon’s Kindle range, along with the ability to pick-up online orders in person and even select and buy an ebook for your Kindle. To be fair to Amazon, it looks pretty amazing. They select the books they stock based on their popularity, customer feedback, and sales. What’s even cooler is that they merchandise their stock facing outwards, so that intrepid browsers can see the book’s cover rather than the spine, and beneath each book is a genuine review lifted from the Amazon website, along with the book’s overall rating. You can test-drive the Kindles too, and even add products to your online ‘wishlist’. And whilst it’s only one shop for the moment, if it is successful, they will no doubt roll out the scheme throughout the country – or more likely, the world.

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Awesome, right? Or is it?

Amazon has spent the last twenty years crushing and crumpling the book market under its big, ugly, online boots. Founded in July 1994, the online bookstore has long been in the firing line for killing bricks-and-mortar bookshops and now it seems that since they’ve murdered the competition, they can step up and be the real-life store they always wanted to be; standing tall and proud amongst the scattered remains of their predecessors. Like a rave in a cemetery. Or a madman laughing amidst a bloodbath, rubbing his hands together with delight as he peers at the surrounding corpses.

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Do we really want our streets lined with faceless corporate giants? Do you want to visit another city only to find the same string of shops, laid out in the same way, offering the same products? Do you want these corporations picking and choosing how we shop, what we buy, where we go? Or would you rather go back to the days of the independent shops? The quaint little village shops with people you can grow to know and love? I know what I’d pick.

But still, this new shop of Amazon’s is a bookshop – a real, physical shop with real, physical books and that will always give my heart a little jolt of joy – and therein lies my confliction. I mean, bookshops are always worthy of a bit of excitement and this one, with all its features and its sleek, modern, aesthetically pleasing design (oh, and all those books), is no exception. I mean – bookshop: eek! (Or ‘squee’, as I’m told is the new word of excitement…hmmm…) What’s true too is that Amazon did not rise from nothing but instead, its success comes from the millions and millions of people who shop there every single day – customers have made Amazon what it is in the same way that customers decide on the success and failure of all capitalist ventures. So if people really didn’t want Amazon to exist, they would never have given them their custom. It may not be the ideal world but that’s how capitalism works.

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Amazon as a whole company, too, have been a main player in helping to build a viable indie author community, allowing writers to publish and promote their work (their lives) in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t have been able to before (unless they were lucky enough to get a publishing contract or rich enough to go down the old-school self-publishing route). Whilst most would agree that the system is far from perfect and is often unfair, I for one know that my manuscript would be languishing in the back of a dusty old cupboard right now if it weren’t for Amazon (instead, it’s rather languishing in a dusty old corner of Amazon but that in part is due to my own lack of marketing knowledge and energy, and hey, at least it’s out there).

So as much as people like to moan about Amazon (myself included), they aren’t all bad. Yes, they are a corporate giant that sucks the life out of the little people. Yes, I have absolutely no doubt that there are some pretty creepy skeletons in their closet, but do you know what? They aren’t going away any time soon and let’s be honest here, they know how to get bookshops right! Amazon Books, with its unimaginative but ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ name, is pretty awesome and there is absolutely no denying that.

Inside The First Amazon.com Inc. Brick And Mortar Bookstore

4 comments

  1. They really ARE that bad 🙂 We are all going to regret having them control our lives and it will be sooner, rather than later. They already hold people to ransom over their Kindles. They aren’t even very good business people either. It’s just that they make so much money that they can’t be bothered to fix what is wrong. Everything has its day. They traditional publishing industry has almost been replaced with Amazon, and we already need to replace Amazon too.

    1. Yes they are bad, of course they are. But if people didn’t like them, they wouldn’t spend their money with them, and they’d go bust. That’s how capitalism works – it’s almost democratic. And I also think it’s a bit hypocritical to use their services whilst denouncing them at the same time. Of course they are evil – all big corporations are, and I’d much rather we didn’t like in a capitalist society but whilst we do, we’ve got to accept that as fact.

      And in the meantime, whilst accepting their negative points, there is nothing wrong with also appreciating what they do well and their bookshop is a lovely bookshop (from what I’ve seen) with some great features. They do know how to sell books!

      As for Amazon having completely replaced traditional publishing – that’s not entirely true yet. And yes, the Amazon system is not the ideal system but then neither were the elitist, restricted traditional publishing houses of old.

      Just my thoughts 🙂

  2. No, Amazon is not all bad. If it weren’t for this corporate giant, I would not have been able to publish my book so quickly and so incredibly easily. It is capitalism, as you say, and if your company takes off and does well, it’s for a reason.

    As a customer, I love Amazon. As an author, I’m not sure about the way they over-police reviews, and it’s clear that big publishing companies still rule the roost. However, that is to be expected. It’s a business like any other. Indie authors may be small fish in a big pond, but at least we have the opportunity to be in that pond.

    This store does look good. The books facing outward is a wonderful idea. It takes up more space on the shelf, and therefore they can’t store as much merchandise, but it makes perfect sense.

    By the way, Riley, to add to your knowledge of Seattle, two things that originated in the Washington city are Starbucks and Grunge. 😉

    1. Wow, thanks DM! I now know four things about Seattle lol!

      I agree about the front-facing books – it’s a great idea! I work in a charity shop and we always put a few front-facing books (but not all). It’s always the front-facers that sell best! I think people are attracted to the covers.

      You are also right about Amazon – there is a way to go in making the system fair and easy to use, and the review system is shockingly bad – but most of us indie authors would still be want-to-be authors!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

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