Amazon is making its first foray into brick-and-mortar bookstores in the NYC market with the opening of an IRL bookstore on the third floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle. The 4,000 square-foot space is Amazon’s seventh bookstore in the country, and it draws extensively on the company’s data-driven online model to organize and sell its products.
And the books really do feel like products in the space. Instead of shelving them with the binding out, like you’d find at a normal bookstore, every one is placed with its cover facing forward so that you can, literally, judge a book by its cover. Small placards below each tome provide the book’s online star rating as well as a helpful review from some random person on the internet. (Thanks for the tip, Helen!) You can scan a barcode with your phone to be taken to the book’s page on Amazon.com where you can see the Prime price and more.
Other than the Apple Store-like display, which sometimes makes you feel like you’re shopping for a new phone cover instead of a novel, the most striking thing about Amazon’s NYC outpost is the various sections in which the books are organized. The first thing that greets you upon entering is a table promoting books that have all received star ratings of 4.8 or above, which pretty much sets the tone for the overall experience. There are sections for books that have received over 10,000 reviews on Amazon, “quick read” books that Kindle users have finished in less than three days and a whole wall recreating the “customers who like this, also like” feature from Amazon.com.
As you can probably guess, all of these sections, sub-sections and evenly spaced, forward-facing covers don’t leave a lot of room to fit actual books into the store. It doesn’t help that significant space has been given over to the Amazon Echo and its various accessories. Overall, the space feels more like a curated offering of highlights rather that the more comprehensive offerings you’d be able to find at Barnes and Noble or Strand. But it’s great if you’re looking for a copy of The Girl on the Train!