Amazon’s Uncanny Bookstore

Amazon recently unveiled its first physical bookstore, but to us it feels like a missed opportunity. Rather than using the development of a physical retail space as an opportunity to evolve the brand with the introduction of something different, what Amazon seems to have done is design a slightly uncanny recreation of their online store.

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Many in-store features are reminiscent of the online experience visitors to the site receive: there are no spines in sight, as books face cover outwards to replicate how they are shown on the web, and an online user review and star ratings features below each publication. In fact what’s stocked in the Amazon Bookstore is entirely determined by customer reviews on The 3,000 titles in store have all received at least a four-star overall rating, making mass popularity essential to be showcased in store.

Although the contents in store are based on human opinion, it seems to be a very impersonal approach to bookselling. It leaves no room for discovery, no place for the controversial or the polarising- what is left is simply has mass popularly appeal. At a time when bookshops in the UK have been rejuvenated by the changes that James Daunt has made at Waterstones, partly by refocusing on the importance of personal recommendations from its booksellers, it is surprising to see Amazon move so far in the opposite direction.

Amazon Dash and Amazon Go are prime examples of the brands innovative rigour, with both concepts bringing something fresh to the market. We love the idea of a retail space inspired by Amazon’s rich connection to literature, but the first Amazon bookstore is lacking inspiration, and rather than truly innovating, it feels as though the brand is playing catch up.

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