I was torn when Amazon.com, the online-only retailer for books, music, and movies, became popular. I liked the convenience, but it was clear that local brick-and-mortar bookstores would have difficulty competing with Amazon’s prices in the long term. I was swayed enough to the side against Amazon when I participated in a boycott of the company when they filed for a patent for the 1-Click ordering system.
Over the years, though, I’ve come to accept Amazon.com as a part of my life as a consumer, and I shop using Amazon.com for more than just books, music, and movies. I gave into my desire for speedy delivery and joined Amazon.com Prime, as well.
Amazon.com’s aggressively competitive tactics has extended recently to book publishing. With a book publishing arm, Amazon.com has the right to sell its own published books exclusively. With the new tools Amazon.com is offering authors, traditional publishers are having a hard time competing.
This week, I saw that Amazon.com is planning to open a physical, brick-and-mortar store in Seattle. It could be the first step to bring storefronts to more locations throughout the country, but that depends on the results of this one Seattle location. The purpose doesn’t seem to be to keep an inventory of books, movies, and other media on hand to sell, but to focus on Amazon.com’s own electronics, like the Kindle.
I was recently reminded of why I was wary about Amazon.com in the first place. I’ve seen what has happened to local book stores, some of which have gone out of business, and what has happened to Borders, with large, empty stores left in the wake. There are several local book stores that remain, but I can’t say whether the stores are thriving and predict how long they’ll last. I spoke with a book-lover who was mortified that I rarely shop in independent book stores and that Amazon.com is changing the landscape for consumers and hurting small business owners.
If Amazon.com extends its new store front model beyond one location in Seattle, the primary competitive target seems to be Apple, not local book stores. Yet, if the e-book, and particularly Amazon.com’s proprietary version of the e-book, becomes the preferred method of reading for more consumers, and these e-books could be purchased only from Amazon.com, local bookstores will be in danger.
What will a book store look like in the future? Will locally-owned book stores continue to exist as viable businesses?