“you feel as if you are not in a bookstore but a marketing experiment”
April 10, 2017 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Amazon takes a page from bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Here's what it's like inside. [Chicago Tribune] “Amazon Books on Southport Avenue, the fifth physical store from the Seattle online giant and its first in the Midwest, is a deeply, unsettlingly normal place, a soulless, antiseptic 6,000 square feet, a stone's throw from a J. Crew and a SoulCycle. It has the personality of an airport bookstore and conveys all the charm of its stone floor. Shopping there is as frictionless as a one-click purchase. There are no quirks, no attempts at warmth. There is no store cat. There are no handwritten notes about what the staff loves. The only difference between the children's section and the rest of the store is that the children's section has a rug. It is, in businessspeak, a bricks-and-mortar presence, so unimaginative its facade is brick.”
posted by Fizz (117 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man, Borelli was kind of a dick to the people who were working there. They just need the (no-doubt inadequate) paycheck.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2017 [14 favorites]


Before I left, I bought a paperback of “1984.” I hadn't read it since high school. I handed the book to the clerk. “Seems appropriate,” I said to the clerk, who nodded solemnly.

“Because of this day and age,” he said.

“No,” I said, “because of this store.”

There’s something very onanistic about book critics at newspapers going into Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores and talking about how terrible they are, with the point driven home when the critic buys a book after complaining about how terrible the place is. Yes, the purchase is essentially symbolic and will in no way make or break this particular outlet of the Amazon octopus. And yes, we know that, and the reporter knows that, and the store owner knows that, so who cares? Yet, despite all of us knowing that, the reporter still feels fine giving Amazon a few extra bucks so that they can get in a decent, utterly meaningless, closing jab at the store. The reporter, happy to be complicit in order to have a fun symbol.

but I’d argue that there’s a meta-symbolism in that the reporter still felt like they should purchase the book. You’re trying to make a pointed jab at the store, you know that your jab doesn’t really matter to anyone but will cost you a few books, and yet you still feel obliged to jab.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:47 PM on April 10, 2017 [46 favorites]


As a frequent denizen of bookstores, at least those that are still open, I would not be found in one of these. Back in the day, I noticed over time how Borders huge inventory kept shrinking more and more until whole shelves just had a few books placed cover out. This new store is starting out that way. The idea of going to a store that is only stocked with popular books, by whatever definition of popular they use, is not my idea of going to a bookstore. I am an incessant browser who looks for the obscure, the weird, the old, and the books that fill my niche interests that aren't in the popular realm. I mourn the continuing disappearance of places to go to in my search for books.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2017 [34 favorites]


After all, what human being-based company would install a Kindle Reader in a book aisle with this encouragement: "Explore books in this aisle on the Kindle Reader"?

I visited Seattle and Portland a few weeks ago and while in Portland we stopped by Powells because that's what you do in Portland. I spent time looking at books in the front of the store where all the covers are *gasp* turned out. I then wandered the entire store until I found the photography section. I used to LOVE spending hours in Strand in NYC pouring over the photo books but all these years later I was standing in Powells looking at shelves and shelves of photo books and I was just overwhelmed. I've been trained by the internet to quickly make an assessment and if something doesn't catch my eye I move on. All I could see is spines and I no longer have the patience to pull every book out and leaf through it.

On the other hand, I stopped by the Amazon store in Seattle after dinner in U Village and guess what I bought: a frickin Kindle paper white. I guess I've finally become one of the unhip gentrifying masses. I always knew this day would going.

Before I left, I bought a paperback of "1984." I hadn't read it since high school. I handed the book to the clerk. "Seems appropriate," I said to the clerk, who nodded solemnly.

groan....
posted by photoslob at 4:52 PM on April 10, 2017 [12 favorites]


This is a snarl disguised as a review.

There are turntables for sale; there are more coloring books than a Barnes & Noble can hold; there is an Asian travel section that includes South Africa in its definition of Asia. Say you're looking for the first novel from The New Yorker's Elif Batuman. It's beside a blender. Say you've never heard of Elif Batuman — you're in the right place.

A classicist snarl at that.
posted by zabuni at 4:52 PM on April 10, 2017 [21 favorites]


Oh no, NO CAT. Good. Less sneezing from me.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2017 [9 favorites]


Jeez dude- why so bitchy? It doesn't sound like the place I want to lazily wander about while picking up too many books - but the last book store I went to was in Portland with a shelf full of zines and a dismissive, barrista like troll who hid behind the counter until we looked over to find them(them in the non gender specific sense, not in the more than one). So I am not your target market

But whatevs- there is room for both- as the place stays (or doesn't) it will acquire people who like it there. And the people who work there will sneak in handwritten signs. And much as I love finding obscure 20's century novels dog eared and marked up, places like this inevitably have the specific technical manual I need.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


In almost every single indie bookstore I've ever been in, the employees didn't even acknowledge my presence, except the cashiers. The cashiers are usually pretty pleasant, as a rule. This idea that the indie bookstore hand-sells to every customer is just laughable.

When you enter, the first table is not piled with Chicago best-sellers or books about Chicago, but rather titles that have been "Highly Rated" (4.8 stars and above) by customers on the website.

And? How is this different than any other bookstore putting their bestsellers up front? Let's not pretend that independent bookstores aren't for-profit businesses. When I walk into a bookstore I would be very surprised to see local history on the front table.
posted by lyssabee at 5:06 PM on April 10, 2017 [14 favorites]


I'd be happy to a return the the bookstores I grew up with - pretty small affairs in shopping malls stuffed with books because they were small enough that there was no other way to be. And they were mostly bestsellers with a smattering of rotating genre books which made them constantly changing so it was always worth your while to go in to see what had arrived. I don't know why bookstores have to be so darn big these days other than the relentless math of sizing them based on per-sq-ft sales numbers.
posted by GuyZero at 5:07 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was also unimpressed by his attitude to the employees. In terms of its stock, the store seems to have all the depth of the late Waldenbooks or Crown.

His point about the difference between Amazon shopping and bookstore shopping is true enough. I've got my wishlists of multiple thousand books on Amazon where I store academic books that might one day be useful, and which I scroll through every couple of weeks in search of price drops ("oh, look, that Oxford University Press book has dropped from $200 to $20") or good secondhand bargains (I give most of my $ to the secondhand sellers). And then I have bookstore hunting, where I can go squee! over unusual and not exorbitantly-priced Victorian religious novels. But even this Amazon store might yield an occasional squee-worthy find--one never knows, which is surely the point of wandering around even an airport bookstore.

That being said, as someone who lived in Chicago for a few years, worked at one Chicago bookstore (the Seminary Co-Op), and purchased two or three thousand books or so, I'm not sure where he's finding a surfeit of book-chatty employees, let alone book-chatty customers. They weren't hugely chatty then, and on my return visits, they still haven't been chatty. At the Co-Op, the customers generally wanted to hang out with Ricoeur or whatever. Ditto Powell's. I do recall Mr. O'Gara and his successor being a bit more talkative (and Mr. O'Gara certainly had a couple of very dramatic Persian cats).


Back in the day, I noticed over time how Borders huge inventory kept shrinking more and more until whole shelves just had a few books placed cover out.


The nearest (by which I mean almost twenty miles away) large bookstore to me is a medium-sized Barnes & Noble, and in recent years it feels like an epic struggle getting through the toys to the actual, well, books. (The local indie also has a lot of toys, but that's always been part of its remit.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:14 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


There are no handwritten notes about what the staff loves.

That's a bad thing?
posted by davebush at 5:15 PM on April 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


That reads a bit as if Guy In Your MFA had taken up thinkpiece writing.
posted by acb at 5:25 PM on April 10, 2017 [35 favorites]


I've been to independent bookstores where I swear they have a commercial artist write and illustrate their quirky notes.
posted by acrasis at 5:29 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


You’re trying to make a pointed jab at the store, you know that your jab doesn’t really matter to anyone but will cost you a few books, and yet you still feel obliged to jab.

i have no arms, and i must jab
posted by entropicamericana at 5:30 PM on April 10, 2017 [10 favorites]


"Amazon takes a page from bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Here's what it's like inside", by Christopher Borrelli

Recommended If You Like

Complaining that the convenience store at the end of the block doesn't have very much compared to the huge grocery store that's 20 minutes away
posted by 23skidoo at 5:32 PM on April 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


Some Bethesda (Md.) residents are so upset the Barnes & Noble is closing that they've started a petition to keep it and have said "we'd love Amazon to open a shop here!"

I love bookstores. A lot. But Politics & Prose is less than 3 miles away from this B&N (although, you know, DC traffic) or two Metro stops and a nice walk. If you have a car, there's the glorious Second Story Books warehouse about 6 miles away (and with some walking, you could Metro!).

I get there's not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to bookstores (and I do order a lot from Amazon -- although not necessarily books). I feel like Amazon's stores aren't really bookstores, though, but showrooms for books. I'm not saying this guy wasn't a jerk, but he's not being a jerk about a bookstore. He's being a jerk about a marketing opportunity. There is a lot to criticize about these stores and how he wrote about them. You can comment on both!

Anyway, yeah, I think it's probably a shame that Borders is gone & B&N is closing more an more stores. But I think most of our ideas of a bookstore is dead (B&N has been selling fewer and fewer books, last I checked). I also get that independent bookstores aren't necessarily sustainable for a lot of communities. I don't think Amazon is 100% the enemy but they are not the answer, either.
posted by darksong at 5:32 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


Either the author mistook this for the actual Amazon Dystopia Store or he just couldn't wait and he took out all of of his snark on the altogether different (for now) Amazon Bookstore.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:37 PM on April 10, 2017


I'd be happy to a return the the bookstores I grew up with - pretty small affairs in shopping malls stuffed with books because they were small enough that there was no other way to be.

There was indeed a time where those stores were not bad at all. They had a little depth and they were fun to browse in for an hour or so. I think there came a point, after about 1989, where they got rid of book buyers who were book people, and just stocked whatever Ingram carried, or what the MBAs' linear programming coughed up.

The thing that broke my heart was watching the same thing happen to Borders, about 10 years later.
posted by thelonius at 5:38 PM on April 10, 2017 [14 favorites]


I've been to this store.

I actually liked it except for it being too crowded during its first week. It was interesting to see books displayed in unusual and different contexts. I didn't buy anything but I did add a few books to my library hold list based on what I saw there.

I much prefer Unabridged Books (a bit further east in the same neighborhood) because I like their detailed personalized reviews they have with their books but I'll probably visit the Amazon Book store again. Also there is an excellent brewpub with great Crowler/Growler deals on Saturdays just across the street.
posted by srboisvert at 5:43 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Now I know what I want to do when I get (even more) old- open up a storefront stuffed with books and a lazy dog and make regular, put hair on your chest coffee in a fancy samovar. Overstuffed chairs and benches in strategic places, and terrible, horrible poetry slams on friday nights with people snapping their fingers after each poem is delivered.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 5:47 PM on April 10, 2017 [13 favorites]


There was indeed a time where those stores were not bad at all. They had a little depth and they were fun to browse in for an hour or so. I think there came a point, after about 1989, where they got rid of book buyers who were book people, and just stocked whatever Ingram carried, or what the MBAs' linear programming coughed up.

Some years ago, the UK chain Waterstone's famously turned its (then failing) business around by headhunting the founder of independent bookshop chain Daunt to overhaul its operations. He scrapped all the centralised business-driven book buying and gave individual shop management discretion to make purchasing decisions, which seems to have done the trick. Certainly, a Waterstone's feels a bit more like a proper bookshop and less like a soulless bookmonger these days.
posted by acb at 5:48 PM on April 10, 2017 [10 favorites]


I did find the Amazon Bookstore to have a weird circa-1990 retro Waldenbooks-at-the-Mall feel to it. All the aisle bookshelves were almost ceiling-height and they had this cheap glossy polyurethane finish to them that made the entire store feel anxious and and overly cluttered. All they needed were a few green phosphor CRTs and dot matrix printers hiding amongst the stacks to complete the illusion.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:54 PM on April 10, 2017 [10 favorites]


It's not a real Amazon Bookstore until it has a Recommendations For You section that's a giant swimming pool full of replacement AC adapters similar to the one you purchased recently
posted by theodolite at 6:01 PM on April 10, 2017 [100 favorites]


Man, remember Borders? Borders was literally the best bookstore that had ever happened...when it was still a bookstore. Then it became a place selling mugs with moustaches on them, and scented candles, and became the worst bookstore that ever happened. Even years after they went belly-up, the few remaining bookstores on earth are still copying their shitty business model and filling their shelves with tat.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:04 PM on April 10, 2017 [12 favorites]


Borders was incredible in the 90's. It got sold to , iirc, K-Mart, sometime in the new century.

Did I ever tell you about the blizzard of ought-three?
posted by thelonius at 6:09 PM on April 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


"guess what I bought: a frickin Kindle paper white. I guess I've finally become one of the unhip gentrifying masses. I always knew this day would going."

As a person with not one but TWO entire walls of my house converted into bookshelves, I can say the single best purchase I have EVER MADE is a paperwhite. I FUCKING LOVE THAT THING. I can carry 200 books in my purse! I can read at night when I have insomnia without disturbing my husband! I can instantly download basically anything more than 100 years old! I can read cheap trashy novels that I used to buy in paperback at the drugstore without killing trees for something eminently disposable! I can read books I don't want my children to see me reading in front of my children!

I love me some physical books and the sensory sensations of reading a physical book, but a paperwhite just opens up SO. MANY. MORE. opportunities to read! It's glorious.

---

I too was going to say, what's missing from a lot of these shops is discretionary purchasing by book people. My hometown book shop when I was growing up was small and dominated by best sellers, but they also had a lot of local interest books (about local places, or by local people), the ladies who worked there all had particular tastes that they bought for and curated, they were good at making recommendations ("If you like this, try that"), and they would stock things according to their local repeat customers. When I got into Noel Streatfeld they gradually stocked the less-common ones since they knew I'd be coming in with my allowance looking for one I hadn't read yet. And when I got into SFF, they sought out for me juvenile/YA SFF, especially with female heroines, even though none of the ladies were particularly into it. That's why you keep going to a local bookstore. My Barnes & Noble is fine -- it's pleasant, they do a decent job, the kids' section is good -- but it's all very generic and nobody's looking for books for me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:09 PM on April 10, 2017 [48 favorites]


Meh. It's a nice break from looking at furniture you aren't going to buy while waiting for Din Tai Fung.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:09 PM on April 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


I only came across Borders in the early oughties, in Oz, but man, it was the dog's bollocks. I could spend $300 a throw there every day on stuff I never even knew I wanted, just because it was so vast, so well organised, and had such breadth of (presumably curated) product. Their CD and DVD selection was crappy and overpriced but the books...wow.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:11 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


Their CD and DVD selection was crappy

I seem to recall a pretty decent selection of music.
posted by davebush at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


What alternate universe did I just cross over to? Because in the one I just left, independent bookstore sales keep increasing and e-books as a percentage of the market have plateaued...
posted by Automocar at 6:32 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


man fuck Amazon for not being in the twee indie used bookstore business. what sellouts

impressive that they went back in time to develop this piece into the movie You've Got Mail
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:39 PM on April 10, 2017 [14 favorites]


I don't have feelings for or against this store, but the whole concept of Amazon having an actual bookstore is just weird. It's like if Buffalo Bill took one of the 10 bison left after he and his pals slaughtered them all and decided to keep it as a pet in his back yard.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:41 PM on April 10, 2017 [11 favorites]


...I don't get it. If I want stuff from Amazon, I click three buttons and it arrives later that day - or the following morning if it's late. Eventually, I am told, a pretentious RC helicopter - probably in the shape of a logo - will drop stuff off within two hours.

A more sterile Barnes & Noble clone that I have to get up and go to in order to peruse a tiny subset of the exact same inventory makes absolutely zero goddamn sense. This isn't just "I am not the target demographic", this is "I am not the target species."

Who - or perhaps what - wants this and how can we stop them from reproducing until we've secured a post-scarcity economy for our progeny?
posted by Ryvar at 6:42 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


I only came across Borders in the early oughties, in Oz, but man, it was the dog's bollocks.

This… this is a good thing?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:51 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


...pretty small affairs in shopping malls stuffed with books because they were small enough that there was no other way to be.... I don't know why bookstores have to be so darn big these days...

Book stores nowadays hardly have any books compared to when we 'olds' were young! Maybe there's 40 times more footage, but over half of it is in DVDs, CDs, games, puzzles, coloring books, kitschy foofaraws, teddy bears, a rack of sparkly unicorn bookmarks, gourmet brownies, berries, and nuts, the coffee shop, the help kiosk, the kiddo's play section....yadda yadda. I remember when the old bookshop had new books shelf-end to shelf-end, with some stacked on top of the shelved books, and occasional cartons stacked up on the ends. There wasn't much of a display, except for in the window. Now the biggest bookstore locally has maybe 25 books on a four foot shelf, with several others turned to display the covers, a couple held between display bookends, and a hand-lettered sign, "Try our coffee and chocolate biscotti!"
posted by BlueHorse at 7:11 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


When you enter, the first table is not piled with Chicago best-sellers or books about Chicago, but rather titles that have been "Highly Rated" (4.8 stars and above) by customers on the website. Which does not mean even more James Joyce: It means "The Big Book of Kombucha," and the "Hamilton" coffee-table book and the "Marvel Encyclopedia."

As someone who loves Joyce, I'm fairly certain that kombucha, Hamilton, and Marvel are far more popular. Also, I was left with the impression that the writer has not actually read 1984. I'm reading it on my Kindle, a library copy - owning a Kindle has turned me into an enthusiastic library patron.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:23 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


There are still Half-Price Books I hope?
posted by pan at 7:27 PM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Tattered Cover in Denver. Four branches now, I think. Couches, friendly staff, coffee, and an unbeatable inventory. Kills everything except Amazon and a few Barnes and Nobles stores, which still exist, somehow.
posted by kozad at 7:30 PM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


A copy and paste from a currently ongoing chat with a buddy who was almost an AWS admin.

The bookstores I tend to spend money in are not just the ones with books I like, but the ones I feel comfortable in and thus feel comfortable funding.
My comment.
posted by Samizdata at 7:31 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


It has the personality of an airport bookstore

I was so confused by this because the airport bookstore I'm most familiar with is Renaissance Books in the Milwaukee airport, and it's pretty much the most charming and personality-filled bookstore I've ever been to. It has books stacked all the way to the ceiling, clearly haphazardly and just shoved in where they'll fit. The most random stuff, too. Once I found a 1950s New York social registry. Apparently most airport bookstores aren't like that, I gather.

You could also explore the books in front of you by picking them up ...

But I can't find all the secret gay fantasy that's never explicitly stated on the back cover blurb but is revealed in the reviews and/or tags, a la Magic's Pawn.
posted by brook horse at 7:36 PM on April 10, 2017 [9 favorites]


Also, I own a Kindle Fire and a Asus Zenpad. The Kindle Fire is named Scherazade as she never leaves my bed table where she tells me bedtime stories (and helps me get Bedflix). It was a gift, but I find almost useless other than for the aforementioned Bedflix, a nifty voice controlled alarm clock that is way too easy to accidentally turn the alarm off on, and another thing to run World Community Grid on. The inexorable ties to Amazon bugs the hell out of me, as I can't install anything I actually want on it (like my preferred book reader or even SwiftKey with proper updating). So, yeah, she's not left the house. Gogo, my ZenPad is my mobile go to.
posted by Samizdata at 7:36 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was so confused by this because the airport bookstore I'm most familiar with is Renaissance Books in the Milwaukee airport, and it's pretty much the most charming and personality-filled bookstore I've ever been to.

It is The Best!! The airport location used to be just a satellite - for decades the main store was a 3 story building in downtown Milwaukee. I spent so much time there as a teenager. In the past few years, I have gone to the airport just to go to the bookstore.
posted by AFABulous at 7:47 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


This… this is a good thing?

Dog's bollocks are right up there with the bee's knees.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:19 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't get Amazon's foray into brick-and-mortar retail. It's like a basketball team running up the score. Plus, they aren't good at it. Their point-of-sale app was crap, their "just enter our store, grab what you want, and leave, and we'll somehow figure out how to charge you for it" project doesn't even seem serious.

They are absolutely crushing brick and mortar retail (just look at retail store closures, mall traffic numbers, retail worker stats)...why would they want to play on the losing team?
posted by mikemacman at 8:31 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


This… this is a good thing?

You can have Eddie Izzard explain it to you. Starts around 2:45. Sorry, I don't know how to link from a certain place in the video.
posted by greermahoney at 8:36 PM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I will provide a store cat for $0.16/hr, $0.38/hr, or $0.95/hr for small, medium, and large cats respectively, with a $0.048 fee per petting incident, $0.078 per purr, and $0.48 per cat egress (ingress is free). You can save 30% by purchasing reserved cat instances in advance. Cats may drop dead at any moment so be sure to have multiple backup cats for high availability.
posted by miyabo at 8:42 PM on April 10, 2017 [28 favorites]


Cats may drop dead at any moment so be sure to have multiple backup cats for high availability.

That's why I use catspace.com. They're a little more expensive but you can't beat their felinatical customer service!
posted by mikemacman at 8:47 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


I just finished a really wonderful book about bookshops from all over the world, The Bookshop book. Highly recommend if you love book stores of all kinds.
posted by gryphonlover at 9:08 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


A "petting incident" is why I have these scratches on my arm.
posted by AFABulous at 9:16 PM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


/aggressively supports local bookstores with a great curation of books and new releases by buying books assertively
posted by yueliang at 9:18 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Like srboisvert, I've been to the store that's written up in the article. And not to get all hurf-durf-change-is-bad about it like the author, the visit left me feeling sad and a bit disoriented. It's hard to even put my finger on why, beyond the fact that it was easily five times busier than I've seen the best bookstore in the neighborhood (Unabridged, over on Broadway -- RIP Bookworks). It was a sense of foreboding, I guess.

The comparisons to the Waldenbooks and Borders of years gone by aren't wrong. There's a fair bit of that vibe, though the algorithmic sheen makes it all feel new. It was disconcerting being told to use the Amazon app on my phone to scan books to get the Prime price, though. I mean, one of my remaining pleasures of shopping in meatspace is that at least my impulses aren't being tracked in fine detail. They've engineered a fix for that, though!

I mean, there was nothing *wrong* with the place, and they'll sell worthy books to a lot of happy readers, so that's a plus. And I'm a Prime member, so it's not like I've harbored some deep and abiding objection to Amazon. But when I walked out, I really, really couldn't shake the phildickian sense that I'd just been to the local beachhead for some alien, indifferent, insistent enterprise.

Sooooo, guess I'd better schlep to Unabridged next weekend.
posted by theoddball at 9:49 PM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't get Amazon's foray into brick-and-mortar retail.

They try a lot of things, give the idea a good run and if it doesn't make bank, shuts it down. Somewhat surprised that they don't do a "charming" format with cozy chairs, cafe, great wifi the better to order from Amazon. 10% off for all orders in the next 10 minutes from this location. (omfg, what am I doing giving THEM ideas)

Very please that the E-reader tech is finding a good niche! We, the utterly indecisive, must to carry around dozens or hundreds of books)
posted by sammyo at 10:02 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I worked for 3.5 years at a Canadian big box book store. This was around 2006. When I first started the focus was on books and customers. At some point that shifted and it was all about pressuring every single customer to purchase their frequent shopper discount card. A card that you paid $25 which then gave you an additional 10% off of books and some gift items. The majority of people who we pressured into these cards did not need them.

I walked away from that job pretty sour. The only thing I miss is my 30% staff discount. I didn't go back into that store for the first 3 months after I quit. It just felt too much like work and I needed to give myself a little bit of distance before it would allow itself to feel more like a visit to the book store.

It's 2017 and now when I walk into that same book store, what is most noticeable to me is that the store has shifted away from books. Half the book store is devoted to children, not something I'm upset about, but half of that half is entirely made up of toys and gift items.

The other half of the book store feels like a Bed, Bath, & Beyond filled with mugs, plates, high priced water bottles, expensive cheese knives, and blankets. It's very weird and yet it's working. This particular chain has managed to survive because it's shifted its focus away from books into gifts. It's not something I enjoy. And I'm certainly part of the problem as I often wander in that store and find a book that I'm interested in, take a photo of it or make a note and then go home to purchase it in e-book form from another retailer at a better price.

I need to visit the used book store near me more often, it's a place that I've neglected more and more the last few years. I find myself reading everything online.
posted by Fizz at 10:25 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Honestly, it seems fitting for it to be on Southport. That area, just around the Brown Line stop, is what happens when you gentrify a gentrified neighborhood. The area between the Brown Line and Addison is sterile, with a Gap across from an Athleta and SoulCycle, just south of an Anthropologie and Lululemon, next to a Free People and Lush.

As long as it stays quarantined there and doesn't creep up to my beloved Music Box or south to Schuba's...
posted by anem0ne at 10:29 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


When I first started the focus was on books and customers. At some point that shifted and it was all about pressuring every single customer to purchase their frequent shopper discount card.

That was so annoying - Borders did this, in their decline. I had to force myself to remain pleasant to the register employees, whose fault this was not, and who were probably being evaluated on their conversion rate.
posted by thelonius at 10:35 PM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I feel like a real Amazon store should be some crazy covered market with hundreds of stalls and hawkers yelling at you that their product is better. Better! than the other guy who is a crook! See my reviews!! And everywhere you turn there is scrolling reviews or kids selling you guides to deals or some crazy shit you had no idea you needed but you do and all you have to do is decide you want it and it's there for you when you go out the front door, all neatly boxed up and ready to be carried to your car. That's what Amazon should be like.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 PM on April 10, 2017 [29 favorites]


Well- at least they are still selling books. Didn't they start that way? And this is the best bookstore-

Recycle

When I first moved and was broke I would go there and buy 7 books for one dollar 25 cents american. Do other library systems do this?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 11:16 PM on April 10, 2017


darksong, I work at that B&N. I would say most of the feeling I've been getting from most of my customers about the closing have been sadness about it the loss of the community space. It's a third space for so many families and kids in a way that I don't think Amazon or the two places you named could be.
posted by Night_owl at 3:28 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


I visited Seattle and Portland a few weeks ago and while in Portland we stopped by Powells because that's what you do in Portland

What, Voodoo Doughnuts was closed?
posted by rokusan at 4:17 AM on April 11, 2017




I worked at a (still there!) East Bay bookstore for about seven years. During that time a Barnes & Noble opened right across the street, amazon became a thing, and a ton of other indie bookstores started trying to be more like Borders and B&N (I always thought Borders kinda sucked, honestly--broad but not deep and the staff were just stoned all the time). And Borders and B&N kept trying to compete with Amazon.

Most of the indies died. B&N and Borders died. The brick-and-mortars that survived seem to have done so by 1. retaining knowledgeable staff; 2. retaining some sort of "shopping experience" that still involved serendipity; 3. curating the shit out of everything. Sorta the exact opposite of "we have everything but mostly stacks of USAToday bestsellers."

Part of what killed brick and mortar was trying to act like Amazon. I don't see the reverse being much other than a shitty art project.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:16 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]



I will provide a store cat for $0.16/hr, $0.38/hr, or $0.95/hr for small, medium, and large cats respectively, with a $0.048 fee per petting incident, $0.078 per purr, and $0.48 per cat egress (ingress is free). You can save 30% by purchasing reserved cat instances in advance. Cats may drop dead at any moment so be sure to have multiple backup cats for high availability.


Best of all: there's no need to provide food or a litter tray. When a cat fails a health check, it is automatically killed and a new one is spun up to replace it.
posted by acb at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


What, Voodoo Doughnuts was closed?

Voodoo was open and we bought a dozen donuts for dessert to dinner with friends in Hood River. We did ALL of the touristy stuff. Even went to the Ace and grabbed coffee at Stumps.

Anyway, Haslam's book store here in St Pete bills itself as the largest in the world or some such shit. I LOVE bookstores and I've set foot in the place maybe twice in my entire life because it's basically a warehouse full of books with drop ceilings and bad lighting. It's a mess and I don't really know where to start when I walk in. My wife and I remarked that Haslam's could be like Powells if they just got their shit together but what do I know? They've been open 40 or 50 years and Kerouac was a customer when he lived here.

I will say I was happy to see Revolution books in Seattle is still kicking.
posted by photoslob at 5:36 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


Borders was incredible in the 90's. It got sold to , iirc, K-Mart, sometime in the new century.
During our brief stint in the US in the 90s I was too young to really appreciate Borders. It lives on in family lore though, because my dad, excited to see a particular book through the window of a Borders, propped up his backpack outside the door and popped inside to take a closer look. This was in LA in the early 90s and the backpack, containing both my dad's and my passport, was immediately stolen. Oh dad! I'll probably get questions about that lost passport at visa interviews from now until eternity.
posted by peacheater at 5:38 AM on April 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


I will provide a store cat for $0.16/hr, $0.38/hr, or $0.95/hr for small, medium, and large cats respectively, with a $0.048 fee per petting incident, $0.078 per purr, and $0.48 per cat egress (ingress is free). You can save 30% by purchasing reserved cat instances in advance. Cats may drop dead at any moment so be sure to have multiple backup cats for high availability.

Download my new app, Catr, and swipe right to select the hottest cat for your browsing experience! All cats are independent contractors, and Catr takes no liability for cat-related incidents.

I feel like a real Amazon store should be some crazy covered market with hundreds of stalls and hawkers yelling at you that their product is better. Better! than the other guy who is a crook! See my reviews!!

Shopping for books on Amazon is still a reasonably straightforward process, but for household products and other items it can be a hot wet mess. It must be working for them so I don't expect it to change, but it is a turnoff for me and there are things I don't even bother searching for there at this point.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:46 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


Shopping for books on Amazon is still a reasonably straightforward process, but for household products and other items it can be a hot wet mess.

When you get near a stall, a person you don't know should come up an tell you how great that stall is, but you're pretty sure you saw the clerk from that stall give the person that talked them up money a few minutes ago.

Then a little while after you shop at the stall, the clerk should hunt you down and request that you review the stall.
posted by drezdn at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about Amazon. The Buns & Noodle has nearly a full shelving unit of Warhammer 4000 fic but less than half of the science fiction authors I follow. The good local bookstore that has the discovery feel is inaccessible outside of business hours. So I probably do too much Amazon.

Amazon retail sounds horrible.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:04 AM on April 11, 2017


Then a little while after you shop at the stall, the clerk should hunt you down and request that you review the stall.

And then the stall should close and move one spot over and reopen with a different name selling the same product but with fewer unhappy customers around.
posted by srboisvert at 6:09 AM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


  I worked for 3.5 years at a Canadian big box book store

Say no more: there is only one now. It's crap, but it doesn't care. The one year I bought the customer card, I scratched around to find ways to make savings with it. Even Amazon.ca in its worst “2× US pricing” phase was still $5 less per book and a week better delivery.

I always fear that Ben McNally Books on Bay St is some kind of hallucination. A book shop like that can't be real, can it? It's no Powell's, but it's still special.

As to being able to find stuff on Amazon, when looking for a heavy thermodynamics reference tome merely titled ‘STEAM’, why did it suggest the erotica section …?
posted by scruss at 6:12 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


stopped by Powells because that's what you do in Portland

Did that. On a short family trip, did not need new reading material, did NOT want added weight of any kind, was not in any way in a book buying mood. Without hunting right in front of my face two books that were fascinating and unique and cheap! That I know would never turn up. Totally a National treasure.
posted by sammyo at 6:31 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


Before I left, I bought a paperback of “1984.” I hadn't read it since high school. I handed the book to the clerk. “Seems appropriate,” I said to the clerk, who nodded solemnly.

“Because of this day and age,” he said.

“No,” I said, “because of this store.”


Ugh, no. Borrelli seems to think 1984 is a stand-in for any sort of imagined dystopia. It's not. It's a specific sort of dystopia, the oppressive government which respects no privacy and controls all information, which doesn't match up with this Amazon store at all. 1984 is not Fahrenheit 451 is not The Handmaid's Tale is not Brave New World is not The Hunger Games, and none of those are the sort of dystopia which this store presumably serves as some sort of harbinger of. I'm not sure if there's a good literary example of that sort of dystopia, but 1984 isn't it.

If the store were actually the first wave of a 1984-style dystopia, you wouldn't be able to buy 1984 there.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:46 AM on April 11, 2017 [37 favorites]


I miss Borders. Best job I ever had except for the part where I couldn't afford to pay rent.

And I did talk to my customers, unless I had a ton of shelving to do, but even then, they were more interesting than re-ordering the genre romance section AGAIN, so I was usually happy to help. Nothing makes you feel like a genius more than when someone says "You've probably never heard of Author X, but..." "Oh no, they're great! We've got them right over here." And watch the customer's eyes bug out because you have that author's obscure backlist book that they haven't been able to find.

Technology slew us, and understandably so, but I loved working in a giant bookstore handling books all day. It had the normal retail downsides, but for a while it was amazing. Everyone else who worked in that store felt that way too. In those pre-internet days, finding so many other nerdy book-loving people in one place was like heaven. And it affected how our customers were treated too.

Don't think Amazon can recapture that, possibly no one but a few indie stores can.
posted by emjaybee at 6:47 AM on April 11, 2017 [12 favorites]


1984 is not Fahrenheit 451 is not The Handmaid's Tale is not Brave New World is not The Hunger Games, and none of those are the sort of dystopia which this store presumably serves as some sort of harbinger of.

Possibly related to Fahrenheit 451 since the central problem of that book is how a culture turns away from "difficult" literature in favor of mass-media populism, but that's a small stretch.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:51 AM on April 11, 2017


Renaissance Books in the Milwaukee airport...
I went there last week. I had to take my wife to the airport, but my daughter went along to go to the bookstore. We spent an hour there and she bought 6 books.
I wonder if they could do franchises....
posted by MtDewd at 6:52 AM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think a franchise would kill the vibe. Where are they going to find that many weird old cashiers who want to talk endlessly about the book you just bought, or another one you might want to buy, when you have to catch a plane?
posted by AFABulous at 7:04 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I head the entire review in the voice of Taylor Doose, from Gilmore Girls.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:07 AM on April 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


I think reviewing Amazon Books as a bookstore sort of misses the point. Amazon is not interested in selling books, they are interested in learning about retailing. Selling books is just a convenient pretense to get a lease, learn how to stage a room, learn how to order and stock items, learn how to organize aisle-flow and product displays and &c. They went with books because it's how they started online, so it makes some sense to use that as a beginning for offline sales.

What they're really interested in is groceries. I wouldn't be shocked if these spaces are either short term leases (a couple of years) or if they get flipped into small scale convenience stores.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:23 AM on April 11, 2017 [10 favorites]


Yeppers, turning into the Amazon/Walmart deathmatch.
posted by sammyo at 8:25 AM on April 11, 2017


I think reviewing Amazon Books as a bookstore sort of misses the point. Amazon is not interested in selling books, they are interested in learning about retailing. Selling books is just a convenient pretense to get a lease, learn how to stage a room, learn how to order and stock items, learn how to organize aisle-flow and product displays and &c. They went with books because it's how they started online, so it makes some sense to use that as a beginning for offline sales.

What they're really interested in is groceries. I wouldn't be shocked if these spaces are either short term leases (a couple of years) or if they get flipped into small scale convenience stores.


Your first paragraph I was thinking, "Why the hell would Amazon want to get into retail with all that overhead that killed Borders and is currently killing B&N?"

Your second paragraph I went "Aha."

At least so far, for perishables like meat, dairy, & veg most folks still require a physical footprint. I wonder how long that'll last, though, especially if you can get same-day delivery.

Grocery delivery is basically magic. Prevents impulse buys, saves time, encourages home cooking (because it reduces the time commitment).
posted by leotrotsky at 8:44 AM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeppers, turning into the Amazon/Walmart deathmatch.

It's an Alien vs. Predator situation.

I'm inclined towards Amazon here, because at least Jeff gives us rocketships, Alexa, and the Washington Post, instead of scumbag heirs and donations to the Republican Party.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:59 AM on April 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


mental note: when exploiting workers and decimating main streets, be sure to throw some pocket change at rocketships
posted by entropicamericana at 9:10 AM on April 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeppers, turning into the Amazon/Walmart deathmatch.

Yes, this is actually notable. Walmart believes Amazon is a competitor, so much so that it resists using AWS when possible.
posted by anem0ne at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2017


What they're really interested in is groceries. I wouldn't be shocked if these spaces are either short term leases (a couple of years) or if they get flipped into small scale convenience stores.


oh, damn. that actually makes a ton of sense, particularly in light of the Amazon Go experiment...
posted by anem0ne at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2017


Walmart believes Amazon is a competitor, so much so that it resists using AWS when possible.

Context for this? In that they use their own cloud, Google's, or someone else's?
posted by Going To Maine at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2017


Good god we're spoiled here in Portland.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:43 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the guy who sold him the book he bought to flounce with called him after he'd gone?

Reading this article, you feel as if you are not reading a review but a sophomore essay.

If the store were actually the first wave of a 1984-style dystopia, you wouldn't be able to buy 1984 there.

Quite.
posted by Hadrian at 9:46 AM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Context for this? In that they use their own cloud, Google's, or someone else's?

Correct. If I recall correctly, last time I knew someone working on this stuff for them, it was Rackspace. It may have changed in the since.
posted by anem0ne at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think the only brick and mortar concept that could conceivably survive in a digital age would be a chain based around the Oprah brand. I'm sure it was pitched to her. I guess her financial advisors warned her against it.
posted by Beholder at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2017


Even years after they went belly-up, the few remaining bookstores on earth are still copying their shitty business model and filling their shelves with tat.

When I was travelling for work all the time, I used to semi-regularly visit all the outlets of the smallest chain bookstore possible, which has two (2) shops in major Canadian airports. For a decade or so, the stores were both well-stocked with your classic airplane reads: mysteries, travel guidebooks, business advice tomes, pocket language guides and such, but they both had really good history and literary travel sections. I used to pick up something almost every time I passed through.

Bafflingly, about four years ago they went in the direction that Chapters/Indigo (the north-of-49 equivalent to Borders or Barnes and Noble) has been going, and both of these 500-square-foot stores replaced seventy percent of their books with beige tchotchkes. To me, it seems inexplicable: a passenger realizes halfway to the airport that they have forgotten the book they planned to read on the plane, or their kindle broke, and before they could browse the shelves for something to read on a trans-oceanic flight. Now, they can buy a picture frame with an inspirational quote on it, or maybe a pillow with an inspirational quote on it, or a mug with inspirational quote on it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


For a decade I worked in a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was down the block from the original Borders. I still dream of both spaces.

to the article:
What there is room for, though, are Amazon-branded gadgets, such as Kindle and Echo and Fire. About a third of the store is Amazon electronics...
...and this is what I see in the front of most Barnes and Noble's. Big clear tables with a couple of e-readers. I have to stomp past them, and then the toys and games, to find books.
posted by doctornemo at 10:26 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I haven't been to an Amazon store, but look forward to exploring.

Another Milwaukee airport bookstore fan here! What a delight, especially after so many bad US airport bookshops.
posted by doctornemo at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]




They try a lot of things, give the idea a good run and if it doesn't make bank, shuts it down. Somewhat surprised that they don't do a "charming" format with cozy chairs, cafe, great wifi the better to order from Amazon. 10% off for all orders in the next 10 minutes from this location. (omfg, what am I doing giving THEM ideas)

Very please that the E-reader tech is finding a good niche! We, the utterly indecisive, must to carry around dozens or hundreds of books)


It is NOT indecision, but, instead, contingency planning! I mean, really, what happens if I finish my book at work or on the bus? Sit there, pointedly NOT look at anyone and be bored (bus option)? I mean, seriously I can only carry a small quantity of physical print on me. Now, if I have Gogo with me, I hit the back button and look up my next book.
posted by Samizdata at 10:49 AM on April 11, 2017


I've seen signs for one getting installed some mall around here (so many malls in this area).

I miss when you could browse books and music at the mall alongside clothes. I'm not about to pretend mall bookstores were ever as charming as The Strand or Powell's, or a used book store run by a delightful old couple who just love true crime in a shore town. But it was nice to just look at magazines and best sellers between browsing five fast fashion shops.

I'm not pretending this is noble. I'm basic and have basic tastes. But I also like to skim the first page of that best seller I heard about as a palate cleanser between forever 21 and H&M. But it seems you just can't keep a mall spot unless you sell disposable clothes or pretzels these days.

What I'd really like to see is Amazon or some other book giant use their technology and reviews database for good use. Let me scan a book barcode and see what other people think of it, ideally also people who work for the store and in my area.

I feel like my wine buying experience is better than my book buying experience, because liquor stores at least try to explain what's good about a wine to you. Most big book stores just have me look at the cover and read the dust jacket and publisher-curated pull quotes. To me, that's the same as looking at the picture and reading the blurb about how long the family's own the vineyard on the back of a bottle of wine.
posted by ikea_femme at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


"Man, remember Borders? Borders was literally the best bookstore that had ever happened...when it was still a bookstore. Then it became a place selling mugs with moustaches on them, and scented candles, and became the worst bookstore that ever happened. Even years after they went belly-up, the few remaining bookstores on earth are still copying their shitty business model and filling their shelves with tat."

One of the ironic things overlooked in this discussion is that one of Borders' biggest mistakes (after Kmart took them over in the '90s, then spun them off again, minus basically all the top exec talent) was to utilize Amazon for all its internet book sales. If you went to Borders.com for years, you'd be redirected to Amazon.com. Borders built Amazon, and only realized too late that they'd created a monster.
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


I've seen signs for one getting installed some mall around here (so many malls in this area).

I miss when you could browse books and music at the mall alongside clothes. I'm not about to pretend mall bookstores were ever as charming as The Strand or Powell's, or a used book store run by a delightful old couple who just love true crime in a shore town. But it was nice to just look at magazines and best sellers between browsing five fast fashion shops.

I'm not pretending this is noble. I'm basic and have basic tastes. But I also like to skim the first page of that best seller I heard about as a palate cleanser between forever 21 and H&M. But it seems you just can't keep a mall spot unless you sell disposable clothes or pretzels these days.

What I'd really like to see is Amazon or some other book giant use their technology and reviews database for good use. Let me scan a book barcode and see what other people think of it, ideally also people who work for the store and in my area.

I feel like my wine buying experience is better than my book buying experience, because liquor stores at least try to explain what's good about a wine to you. Most big book stores just have me look at the cover and read the dust jacket and publisher-curated pull quotes. To me, that's the same as looking at the picture and reading the blurb about how long the family's own the vineyard on the back of a bottle of wine.


Thanks for reminding me of my failed invention in high school in '85. BiblioFax. It was a kiosk where you could browse new books, read a few pages on screen, and get a laser printed to order spiral bound edition while you wait. Benefits to the publisher: Minimal investment in untested authors, and near instant demographics. Benefits to the purchaser: Free taste test, and the ability to purchase on a budget.

I got as far as a meeting with someone at HBJ before I got shot down.
posted by Samizdata at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think reviewing Amazon Books as a bookstore sort of misses the point. Amazon is not interested in selling books, they are interested in learning about retailing.

OK, this makes it seem less incomprehensible because otherwise this seems like an exercise in not knowing your customer base (or at least my corner of it). In order to shop at this f2f Amazon store, I would need to:

-- put on a bra
-- comb my hair
-- check whether my shirt smells or has salsa on it and if so, change it
-- find my wallet
-- get in my car
-- go back to the house for my keys and better CDs
-- drive to the Amazon store
-- find a place to park
-- find my way around and look through a bunch of shelves and shit for 20 minutes seeing if they have things I want. Then carry those things back to my car.

Whereas not having to do any, ANY of that is the chief selling point of regular Amazon. If I'm going to take all those steps, then my destination is going to be someplace I can't visit virtually while at home in my smelly shirt. But actually, in your scenario, they don't give a shit about whether I or anybody else in particular shops at their f2f store. They just want to use whoever wanders in as guinea pigs to study retail processes. That makes much more sense.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:07 AM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Three years ago, I wrote a comment about an experience I had on that very street, almost exactly across the street from where this bookstore is, related to chains moving in. It happened in the 90s, with the second chain store to move in (after Starbucks.)

Since then, then neighborhood has become, effectively, a shopping mall: The Gap, JCrew, Soul Cycle, Amazon...so many upscale, gentrified things have moved in that many of the original chain invaders -- including the Einstein Bagels mentioned in my comment! -- are long gone (it was next door to the Gap that is there now; the other bagel store from my original comment was on the other side of the Gap. If you look with streetview at the store just north of the Gap, where the Einstein Bagels was, you'll see just how tiny the storefronts were back then, and how they're dwarfed by the new buildings.)

I'm pleased to say the really run-down-looking apartment building I lived in is still there, 0.1 miles away from the bookstore, still lived in and owned/operated by my oldest friend's dad, and he's making rents that make my $525 two-bedroom rent seem inconceivable by comparison (even though he's still setting rents under market because he can't imagine why people would spend so much money to live in the neighborhood that he still remembers as a sleepy, run-down blue collar plumbing shop neighborhood in the 70s.) It is certainly a more lively neighborhood than it was before, but it's also noisier, messier, harder to park in, and full of more young, affluent drunks (Chads and Trixies, in the local parlance.)

One thing hasn't changed, though: the neighborhood has just as many rats as it did in the 70s.
posted by davejay at 11:07 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, and if you spin the streetview around to see the Indira across the street, that used to be the Launder-Bar and Cafe, circa 1987 -- a neighborhood-appropriate combo where you loaded up your laundry, then drank at the bar while waiting for the big board to tell you your machine was finished. Read the linked article, it really gives you an idea of what the alternative to chain stores is, when someone makes a personal commitment.
posted by davejay at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


“you feel as if you are not in a bookstore but a marketing experiment”

Had the writer ever been to... y'know... America?

"You feel as if you are not in a country but a marketing experiment."
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:43 AM on April 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


What I'd really like to see is Amazon or some other book giant use their technology and reviews database for good use. Let me scan a book barcode and see what other people think of it

Well, Amazon owns Goodreads, and there is an app.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:47 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


I would love to see the business plan for these stores. I have a hunch that people are missing the point--that it's not really about selling books as much as it's about selling Amazon devices and Prime memberships, and the bookstore setting is marketing.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:35 PM on April 11, 2017


Before I left, I bought a paperback of “1984.” I hadn't read it since high school. I handed the book to the clerk. “Seems appropriate,” I said to the clerk, who nodded solemnly.

“Because of this day and age,” he said.

“No,” I said, “because of this store.”


Also there is no fucking way this happened.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


> Say you've never heard of Elif Batuman — you're in the right place

I don't know who Elif Bautman is and I happily bought the Hamiltome at an Amazon bookstore, so I am doing my part to bring about 1984-style fascism, I guess.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:02 PM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


My cat before last was a bookstore cat and the spankiest spanky cat I ever spanked. She had beau coup attitude and a spectrum of bites carefully calibrated to the severity of the offense. God, she was a character.
posted by y2karl at 1:06 PM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


“you feel as if you are not in a bookstore but a marketing experiment”

Had the writer ever been to... y’know... America?

“You feel as if you are not in a country but a marketing experiment.”

Not to start waving the red, white, and blue too much (or, perhaps, to do a backdoor indictment?), but I actually think the UK feels more like a marketing experiment. We, in contrast, are a marketing success. Yes, we do a lot of advertising here, and fetishize the culture of the wel-crafted image to a stupid extent, but everything is slick and glossy. We advertise well, dang it. We have style and panache.

In contrast, when I was in the UK very briefly a few months back I couldn’t help but feel that people were trying to get onboard with doing mass advertising but had recruited George Orwell to run the department. The ads felt like “ads” - like they were acknowledging that since everyone knew they were advertising something they didn’t really have to put the work in. “You know we’re selling you something, and we know we’re selling you something, so why don’t you just go ahead and buy it?” It was all off-kilter. Here the advertiser at least has to lie and pretend that they’re your friend who’s trying to do you a solid.

So yes - America is no marketing experiment - we’re a marketing success.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:06 PM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am doing my part to bring about 1984-style fascism, I guess.

is that fascism with skinny ties and a Roland 808 drumbeat?

oh the book, right
posted by entropicamericana at 1:07 PM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


“No,” I said, “because of this store.”

Also there is no fucking way this happened.


"No," I said, to myself, that evening, in the shower, "because of this store."
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:09 PM on April 11, 2017 [22 favorites]


The stock is a "highly curated selection" of books selected by a "curation team"

I'm unclear why that's deserving of quotation marks. No bookstore can sell everything. The books at the Amazon stores chosen by people and aren't done strictly by sales (or at least that was the case a few years ago, when I talked about it with a friend who worked with the people who picked the books).

Another nice aspect: I don't feel like I'm going to make any of the workers sad by blatantly putting books on my hold list at the library while I stand there in the store.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:19 PM on April 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


What would really sell this story for me would be if the clerk randomly showed up at the guy's house a couple of weeks later and took the book back.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:50 PM on April 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


In contrast, when I was in the UK very briefly a few months back I couldn’t help but feel that people were trying to get onboard with doing mass advertising but had recruited George Orwell to run the department. The ads felt like “ads” - like they were acknowledging that since everyone knew they were advertising something they didn’t really have to put the work in. “You know we’re selling you something, and we know we’re selling you something, so why don’t you just go ahead and buy it?” It was all off-kilter.

I think what you encountered is the English culture of self-deprecation.
posted by acb at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


I would say most of the feeling I've been getting from most of my customers about the closing have been sadness about it the loss of the community space

That Barnes and Noble defined high school. Pretty much before the Barnes and Noble and the rest of that end of Bethesda, the extremely sticky movie theater a few blocks up seemed like the only parent-approved and thus the sole option for the car-less and young. I grew up with Politics and Prose, Idle Times, Second Story and that used bookstore in Dupont that left and returned years later, slightly odder-- but my friends were in Bethesda, and so to Bethesda for Hawaiian shaved ice (Swedish fish guy!) and books we'd go. (For what it's worth, the Bethesda library is pretty great! For books. Not shaved ice, unless it's gotten way better!) I spent what was a lot of money for me there, when we didn't spend it on s'mores at Cosi, but it's possible the stacks of rumpled magazines and vaguely damp SAT prep books abandoned in corners even then was a sign that the market was not that stable. Anyway, I loved that store, despite its lack of used books, because it represented a lot of freedom. And so, so many regrettable series purchases. I'm sorry it's leaving; I hope something else recaptures that third space, which is desperately needed.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2017


I need to visit the used book store near me more often, it's a place that I've neglected more and more the last few years. I find myself reading everything online.

I can't any more. I used to be every visit was a major crisis in buying ALL the books I wanted on my budget. (This is a good crisis, IMO).

Now when I visit, the crisis is finding anything good that isn't part of the romance and franchised crime novel section that is ameobically devouring the rest of the store shelf by shelf. (This, of course would be a BAD crisis, as I see it)

I was originally happy when the owner sold the store to the employees. That lasted about two months.
posted by Samizdata at 2:00 AM on April 12, 2017


Very please that the E-reader tech is finding a good niche! We, the utterly indecisive, must to carry around dozens or hundreds of books.

Yes, yes, we mustes.

(I have been known to coo "All the bookses for us, precious" while petting my Kindle.)
posted by rokusan at 4:51 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no. My Kindle is officially a curiosity now, and Amazon is firmly on my asshole list. The person that gifted me the Kindle got the adsupported model back in December. I put up with the ads, as I don't have a credit card. Today I got an Amazon gift card as an Easter gift, put it on my account and go to cancel my ads. It throws errors about payment methods. So, I ended up winding my way through the maze of customer service FAQs and crap to get a phone number (which they don't offer you, preferring to call me back), then listen to some abysmal gutless acoustic neo60's claptrap (replete with purchasing references) just to find out you CAN'T disable the ads with a gift card. And, since I applied the card, I can't even slip it to a friend to do the transaction for me any more.

So, yeah, Amazon, get that money and hold onto it tightly. Because I doubt you will be seeing any more money from me.

EVER.
posted by Samizdata at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


"-- put on a bra
-- comb my hair
-- check whether my shirt smells or has salsa on it and if so, change it
-- find my wallet
-- get in my car
-- go back to the house for my keys and better CDs
-- drive to the Amazon store
-- find a place to park
-- find my way around and look through a bunch of shelves and shit for 20 minutes seeing if they have things I want. Then carry those things back to my car.
"

what are you royalty
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on April 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


So, I actually went in on Friday last. Some things to note--

1. It feels as sterile as a Waldenbooks/Borders/Barnes and Noble, nothing like the living space that was Oxford Books in Atlanta when I was growing up, and definitely lacking the lived-in coziness of SemCoop/57th or Book Cellar now.

2. It's clearly an attempt at trying a few methods of layouts and enticing people--they're showing Kindles, Fire Tablets, Echo devices, and Fire TVs in multiple different fashions, as well as showing a select few items that work with the home automation of the Echos. They're showing a lot of different things they sell, including Amazon Basics cables and the like.

3. I don't know who's doing the shelving, but I am not impressed I saw. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed breezing through The Fault in Our Stars by Jodi Picoult John Green, but it's an older book, and there's no reason for it to be face-out twice "discoverable" within two shelves of each other, and a third "discoverable" copy on the endcap right in front of them.

4. The Kindle Voyager's USB socket is in the top right, which means the charging/anti-theft cable is in a super-awkward place and very prone to falling out and making noise. Their displays for it have yet to resolve it well, because right now they're using a flexible rubber thing that doesn't keep it in nearly as well as it should.

5. I walked out mildly annoyed at the whole thing so I went and got ice cream at Jeni's. Sure, it's a chain too, and I'm really not sold on the marshmallow part of the genmaicha/marshmallow ice cream, but their darkest chocolate is lovely.
posted by anem0ne at 10:52 AM on April 17, 2017


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