This last November, Amazon made the decision to expand its company beyond the internet by creating its first physical retail store. This store gave customers the option of buying books in person while still promising the same great prices as listed on Amazon.com. The best part: this store is located very close to where I live. Naturally, as a bookworm who has purchased several books through Amazon in the past, I was dying to see this store with my own eyes. Plus, how cool is it to be a part of history!... sort of. Weekends went by, with something always getting in the way of plans. That is until last month when my chance finally came and I got to visit the very first Amazon bookstore.
Located in University Village in Seattle (just about a 45 minute drive from where I live), Amazon Books is a modest brick building tucked away in a back street. If you weren't already looking for it, it would be fairly easy to miss. Thankfully, driving in the car with my mom and sister, we managed to spot it by Amazon's unmistakable logo displayed on the storefront. As we parked and walked up, we saw that the store had large front windows, and inside we could see people reading in cozy nooks and at countertops facing the windows. I thought this was very neat and had a sort of cozy feeling to it - and I'd like to think seeing people inside reading will entice others to come in, too!
We went in and were immediately met with aisles beyond aisles of bookshelves, and dark wood. I'm glad that Amazon put in the extra effort to make its stores inviting to booklovers. Once I got over the initial shock of seeing this gloriousness in front of me, I knew it was time for me to explore. I wound my way up and down the aisles, mapping out the different sections while also keeping my eye out for anything of interest. Of course I found some great books, but seeing as I had no way of jotting down titles at the time, I had to take pictures of them, and so I probably came across as a major creep or a spy. But I mean, hey, I was already taking pictures of their store, so the damage was already done. Oh, the problems of a book blogger...
Anyway, take a tour with me around the store!
My favorite thing about the store is that it's designed very much like Amazon.com, so there's an aspect of the online store that's still present throughout. For example, on the shelves, each book has its own card underneath, which has a blurb about the book, along with a star rating. Throughout the store, there are also various "featured" sections like Young Adult Top Sellers | Four Stars & Above, as pictured above. It truly is like Amazon.com come to life!
Of course I finally made my way to my favorite section of all: The YA section. I definitely wanted to find a book to buy, just to have a souvenir and so I could say, I bought this at the first Amazon bookstore. I noticed as I browsed through books, though, that the prices didn't seem any cheaper than they were at any other large chain bookstore, which was a bit disheartening. I'd read that the Amazon bookstore would have prices that matched the low prices listed on the online store. Seeing that this wasn't the case, I made my way back through the store to find my mom and sister.
When I got to them, my sister had found one of those adult coloring books. She said she'd heard about them and thought they seemed cool, so she thought she'd buy one for herself . And she honestly seemed so excited about it in a really cute way, like an adult who's found out she can still be a child for a little while longer. She asked me if I'd found anything, but I just gave a defeated shrug. But then something incredible happened. After my sister had bought her book, she came back to us and said that when she got checked out, the price of her book had dropped way down. So the prices listed on the books in the store were the standard retail price, but upon checkout they dropped to the Amazon price. Realizing this, I raced back to the YA section and grabbed the book I'd been wanting to purchase for months: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I decided to test this theory myself and got in line. Sure enough, the original price listed on the book was $18.99, and after checkout the price had dropped to about $12.00
I mean, the only annoying thing about that is that you never know what a book is actually going to cost until you check it out. Sure, it's nice to be surprised and see how much you saved on a book compared to other retailers, but at the same time it'd be nice to have an idea of what a book is going to cost beforehand.
The other odd thing I encountered while checking out was that... Amazon doesn't accept cash. They only accept credit or debit. You can see how this is inconvenient and a reasonable flaw, especially with Amazon being such a large company. You'd think they would allow something as simple as cash payment. And for books, too. Books don't cost that much, so why would Amazon not accept cash for such small purchases? So, all payments must be made through either a debit or credit card. After this, you then have to finger sign your name on a touchscreen to confirm your purchase. How futuristic! But also annoying, because I'm not used to writing my signature with my finger, and so it was a bit awkward the first time and I couldn't even fit my entire name on the small line. All of this is not a huge deal breaker, but it's definitely an inconvenience and a lot of steps to go through compared to simply handing over a couple of bills. Maybe I'm just more old-fashioned. Just keep all of this in mind when walking into an Amazon store.
Other than that, I had a great experience and I walked out happy with my new book. I think it's really cool that Amazon is deciding to expand its company and put out physical stores - hopefully many more to come! I see these stores quickly gaining popularity and I'm excited for there to finally be a bookstore chain with reasonable prices. Amazon Books combines the "best deal" aspect of online book shopping with the personal touch of a bookstore that we all love.