By Mark Walsh
If you’ve visited America recently or are someone who keeps up to date on the latest happenings in the book and retail industry, you will be aware that Amazon now has its own book shops popping up across the States called ‘Amazon Books’. So far there are between 11 - 15 such stores in America.
It’s particularly interesting since Amazon has been accused of being the reason many book shops, including Borders in the UK have gone out of business as the retail industry is “increasingly driven by a "hit culture", a trend magnified by supermarket sales as the grocers concentrate on bestsellers rather than back catalogues.”
What is immediately noticeable about Amazon Books is the way that the shops are tailored to specifically meet the demand of its consumers. In these shops you will find books displayed by categories including ‘Most Wished for Books on Amazon.com’, ‘100 books to read in a Lifetime (our picks from the Amazon.com list)’, ‘New Hardback Fiction (selected using consumer ratings, pre-orders, sales and popularity)’, ‘Hotly debated on Amazon.com (Books readers love and love to hate)’ and even ‘Books Kindle readers finish in three days or less’.
No doubt it is a very clever idea for Amazon to use the information at their disposal to promote certain titles and in a sense determine what to stock and where books are placed in the store. It also means that they aren’t stocking a load of titles that people aren’t interested in. It may also be good for consumers by helping them decide what books to buy, especially if they are purchasing a gift for someone, without having to go by the standard top ten bestseller list.
However, Amazon have received criticism for being a factor in driving books shops out of business with their online business and then coming in and setting up their own book shops. Another argument is that they are only selling the most popular books according to Amazon.com and as a result they are limiting the choice for the consumer. For example, if there is an obscure book that you are hoping to buy then it is unlikely you will find it in an Amazon Books shop.
While this situation isn't a good thing for the book industry and readers that enjoy picking up some rare titles while browsing in a book shop, Amazon would probably argue that they are simply selling what people are already demanding and that it’s up to the more traditional book shops to compete with the online market.
It will be interesting to see if the Amazon Books stores come to Ireland. In the meantime, if you’re planning on going to America soon, then the stores are worth keeping an eye out for.