Amazon (Physical) Bookstore Review

Discussion Post

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Amazon Bookstore in Manhattan (there will be a second one in a couple months) and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it after reading some ambivalent reviews from mainstream sources.

The primary complaints seem to be:

  1. You have to pay list price for the books unless you are an Amazon Prime member (i.e. The physical stores are really an avenue to push Prime sign ups, though no employee would probably actually say this).
  2. The stores stock “only” about 3,000 titles (because covers–not spines–face out on the shelves).

Personally, I loved the set-up of the store.  I think there’s a benefit to being able to really see a curated selection of books, rather than getting stuck staring at the spines of 10,000 books I was never interested in buying anyway.  So, no, I wouldn’t go to a physical Amazon store to purchase something very specific or obscure.  Yet the experience of browsing is easy and a ton of fun.  The books are easy to see and recognize, they’re sorted into fun categories like “Books readers finished in under 3 days,” and you know everything in the store received 4 stars or higher than Amazon.  (Though an employee clarified the ratings are taken not from Amazon.com as a whole, but from users who live near the geographic area where the store is located.)  I would 100% consider coming here to purchase something mainstream or to just look around and purchase something that caught my eye.

The store does have some non-book merchandise (board games, tech gadgets, colored pencils, etc.), but, percentage-wise, the focus seems on books.  For instance, there was a small case containing maybe six different Funko Pop characters–as opposed to the hundreds you can find in a large Barnes & Noble.  Beyond these random items, there is, of course, a full corner of the store dedicated to Amazon’s own tech–Kindles, TVs, the Amazon Echo, etc.  All these are displayed so you can test them out, and there are employees dedicated to answering questions about just these.

I didn’t purchase anything from the store, but the ease of the process seems as though it can vary.  If you have the Amazon app on your phone and belong to Amazon Prime, you should be able to show that to the cashier and get the Amazon discounted price on the product.  If you’re not a Prime member and don’t want to sign up or get the free trial, you’re going to pay the list price of the books.  The store does not accept cash at all, and you’re supposed to have the credit card listed on your Prime account with you.  (So my friends and I watched another customer struggle while he explained that his wife belongs to Prime, but the credit card listed on the account is also hers, and he wasn’t carrying it.  I’m not sure what the outcome of this case was.)

You also can only sign up for Student Prime online, so my friend was unable to join in-store when she made her purchases.  However, Amazon really, really wants you to join Prime, so if you do pay list price in the store, you can always sign up for Prime later and then use a code on your receipt to get a refund for the difference between the price you paid and the Amazon.com discounted price.  (I suspect this is part of the reason the store does not accept cash.)

Yet, whatever hiccups there are with ease of paying, I suspect Amazon will soon iron them out.  Whatever your opinion of the company is, I think most people agree they’re efficient and good at getting what they want–which, in this case, is people using Prime to pay for items in a physical store.

I was half-expecting to dislike the store (because if you think of it as mainly a front to bribe people into getting Prime, it does seem mercenary).  However, the experience of walking around the store and browsing was really great, and I would have been interested in buying tons of the books if I weren’t trying to save up some money.  Selection wasn’t a problem and, come on, you can buy anything obscure you want from Amazon’s website anyway.  The employees were also incredibly helpful and seemed excited to be working there.  One compared the vibe of the store to that of an indie bookstore, and while it’s kind of laughable to put Amazon and indies into the same category, I kind of see what meant.  I would definitely be interested in going back.

Have you been to any of the Amazon bookstores?  Would you be interested in visiting one?

Briana

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32 thoughts on “Amazon (Physical) Bookstore Review

  1. Rachel says:

    I went to my local Amazon bookstore a few weeks ago when it had just opened up. It’s a bit of a hike for me so I doubt I’ll visit often, but it was a nice store. When we first walked in, all the Amazon Echoes were to our right along with the various Nooks and then to our left were some books. Walking down further were books, books, and more books. There was a “kids” section that had a few books along with some toys and then near the register, there were other gadgets and the like.

    I really liked the store. I thought it was nice and I enjoyed seeing the book covers rather than the spines. Everyone judges a book by its cover, so it was interesting to see books I would never normally pick out. My only complaint was that the store was extremely small. We went a few days after it opened so it was super crowded and it was hard to wander around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      The one I was in was small, as well. I can see how it would be annoying if it were really crowded, but there were probably 40 people in the store at the time, and that was alright. I also really loved being able to see all the covers! I don’t entirely understand why a lot of people have been talking about that as if it’s a bad thing.

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      • Rachel says:

        I don’t know either. I find showing off the covers is a great idea. And, if I had the room on my bookshelves, I would totally reorganize them to show off just the covers, lol.

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  2. ashley says:

    There’s an Amazon Store at a marketplace not too far from where I live, but after reading mainstream reviews, I’m most likely going to stick to Barnes and Noble and using the library.

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  3. Michael J. Miller says:

    I am a huge brick and mortar guy. Anything I can buy in a physical store I will. On the one hand, I like the chance to interact with people out in the world (people who work there, are shopping, etc.) that comes with an actual store. On the other, I feel a social responsibility to do so. Each store represents jobs for people you know? Obviously I use Amazon but I’ll always go with Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million first. The idea of being able to browse an actual Amazon PHYSICAL store is exciting! So, yeah, I’d be so up for checking one of these out!

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    • Briana says:

      I like to support Barnes and Noble, as well, but it was great to check out the Amazon store, and I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it after seeing a bunch of negative reviews! Yeah, Amazon is contributing to the demise of bookstores…but I have to admit visiting their own was a pretty nice experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael J. Miller says:

        I was thinking about that too, the “demise of bookstores” things. It’s fascinating to me that this site that facilitated the fall of so many bookstores (chains or independent ones) now has its own brick and mortar store. Ironically it sort of makes me want to visit it more. Your review certainly did! I heard a lot of negative reviews too and that made me sad, loving physical stores as I do. I’m so glad you enjoyed it though.

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  4. Paige Howells says:

    I love going and buying books from my local bookstores but they aren’t always the cheapest option, so thats why I also love amazon when I don’t always have the money. I’ve always wanted to visit a physical amazon bookstore but I live in jacksonville FL where nothing but crazy stories really happens, it was really cool to get to read about your experience!

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    • Briana says:

      Same! I like the idea of shopping local in theory…but I’m currently unemployed. So while I’m trying not to buy too many unnecessary things in general, when I do buy something I can’t really justify paying more for it than I have to. On the bright side, the B&N website has prices similar to Amazon’s, so if the prices are comparable I’ll often order from B&N instead.

      Perhaps Amazon will expand into your area if their existing stores do well!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yeah, they’ve been in the news a bit because it seemed odd for an online-only retailer to open physical bookstores in a world where a lot of those bookstores are closing. (Though I’ve heard this has been a decent year for indie bookshops.) It does seem a bit annoying for Amazon to contribute to the failing bookstore industry and then swoop in and open their own after killing the competition…but I have to admit that it was a rather nice store.

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      • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

        Yeah, it does. But I mean… it’s not like we’d rather not have Amazon and instead have a lot of more expensive stores. If not for Amazon, I would have never been able to blog (I don’t live in America. It’s actually cheaper to get Amazon e-books for me than buy books locally. I would go bankrupt if I did.)

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  5. Summer @ Xingsings says:

    I actually didn’t realize Amazon had physical bookstores! So thank you for taking us along your trip. (Though, secretly, I was hoping there would be some pictures too. But that’s okay. There’s always Google, haha.) I love that set up; I certainly can see why that adds to the browsing experience. I tend to prefer ordering books I need online and walking into bookstores to just browse (and impulsively buy random books). XD

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    • Briana says:

      Yes, just a few, though I think they have plans for a couple more, as well. And, yeah, I completely forgot to take pictures and realized as soon as I got back. I was disappointed too!

      Like

  6. Paula Vince says:

    I’d be very interested to have a browse there. I wonder if there’ll ever be international stores. I’m an Aussie, and we love the online Amazon down here 🙂

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    • Briana says:

      Oh, that’s interesting! I have no idea if they have international plans, but they might if the decide the US stores are going well! I hope you get to visit one sometime.

      Like

  7. Emily | Rose Read says:

    I’m sooo glad you wrote this review! I remember writing a post wayyyy back when they announced they were going to make brick-and-mortar stores, but I have yet to visit one. I definitely would be interested in visiting, though I probably wouldn’t purchase anything because I don’t ever buy new books from Amazon anyway (I’d rather support indies or traditional bookstores). It does creep me out that they don’t accept cash and try to push Prime on you, but I’m glad it was a good browsing experience. I do hope to visit one – there’s one in Chicago, so I hopefully will go soon!

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    • Briana says:

      I remember when they first announced their stores, and it sounded like a ridiculous idea, and no one thought they could do it well. But, honestly, no matter what your opinion of Amazon’s business practices are, I think you kind of half to admit they’re good at business and at most of what they decide to do. The store was really nice to visit, and the employees were great–which is not always my experience at indie bookstores, which everyone is always touting as the most personal and friendly places to buy books. I do think the payment process sounds a bit annoying, but since I didn’t buy anything, it was less of an issue for me. :p I did get the sense from my friends who bought things, however, that they aren’t directly pushy about Prime at the checkout; you just don’t get the discount if you decline joining or the free trial, and they’re ok with you making that decision.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      It was a very nice store! I do think Amazon has some sketchy business practices (i.e. purposely selling books at a loss to make the competition close), but the store was nice. I would go back. And I believe they have plans to open at least a few more.

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  8. Ana says:

    Ohhh now I’m even more interested in going. I read about this in an article recently and I could not wait to go. You would think I would have already ventured there since I work in Manhattan, but nope. Have not had the chance. Now I can’t wait.

    Ana

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    • Briana says:

      Definitely check it out sometime! I really thought it was a nice place to visit. I feel like some negative reviews were based more on the “Amazon is a evil monopoly” premise (valid argument) than on the experience of the bookstore. Sure, there are fewer books than a Barnes & Noble offers, but they’re books Amazon knows a large number of people actually want to buy.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    It’s interesting that the store had an indie bookshop vibe – I don’t think I would personally buy any books from Amazon, because I really love supporting indie bookshops (especially second-hand ones), but it seems like an interesting place. x

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  10. Cal's Constant Raving Reviews says:

    Frankly, I love Amazon’s enterprise. I’m not against it at all. Really, it’s much better than the book dominating stores here in Austrailia– so backwards and outrageously overpriced AND over here, you really can’t buy hardbacks 😦

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    • Briana says:

      I do understand the backlash against Amazon. The reality is that they sell books at a loss to themselves as a company–which in turn leads to the close of other companies who cannot afford to lose money on the products they are selling. It’s not really that the other bookstores in the US are overpriced or that Amazon is just cheaper; they are literally selling the books for less than they are worth. On the other hand, I do buy books from Amazon, I understand why other people would, and I admit they’re pretty efficient as a company and tend to have good customer service if you get something that’s wrong or damaged. So I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I walked around telling people not to shop there.

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