Monday, November 5, 2012

When Amazon Opens Up Shop...


When Barnes & Noble announced that they wouldn’t shelve books published by Amazon imprints (Createspace, Amazon Crossing AmazonEncore, Amazon NY, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and Montlake Romance) the first thing I wondered was ‘What if Amazon opened up their own brick and mortar bookstores?’

Low and behold, Amazon did release press in February that they were developing their first physical bookshop in the Seattle area, but any further developments have been kept on the down-low.

I can't be the only one who's wondered how this development could affect B&N?


Let us ponder...

Amazon would have the heavy advantage of knowing what appeals to buyers in the selected area beforehand, based on online sales. 

They’d know what books and titles are selling well, who’s buying what, and how they should stock their shelves for maximum profit. Trial and error would be online-based and involve little room for physical financial loss- unlike what traditional publishers face with current brick and mortar booksellers every time they launch a new book into the world. So, not only would Amazon be able to serve customers the same (if not better targeted) stock as B&N, but they’d probably do so at a more competitive price.  

Not to mention the monopoly they would have over books published under the above Amazon imprints, - the ones that B&N simply refuses to sell on principle.

Years ago, Barnes & Noble and Borders swept across the nation, targeting areas where independent booksellers were already thriving. They opened up their bigger, more comfortable, cheaper bookshops and slowly squeezed the life out of independents and smaller chains like a some kind of death weed.

But Amazon’s online business continued to grow and thrive as more and more people turned to internet shopping. And it wasn’t long before their business began detracting from the power that was the brick and mortar. Borders paid the price when they couldn’t adapt fast enough (or enough in general) and B&N is currently struggling to maintain some sense of competition with the monster that is Amazon. 

But I have to wonder, will they be able to compete if Amazon ever decides to adapt the same business practices that B&N employed twenty years ago and invest in physical stores on a massive scale?

Not that I think Amazon will take this route. Truth is, they don’t really need physical bookshops to succeed and don’t seem to have an interest in become THE central bookstore chain of America. But if B&N doesn't stop trying to save their own business by blocking Amazon’s, I’m afraid it won’t leave them much of a choice.

Do you think/hope Amazon will somehow become the next big physical bookseller? If not, how are you hoping the tide will turn when it comes to B&N? Do you think that independents will rise to the forefront with the decline of the chainstore?  Or that B&N will somehow find a way thrive?

27 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think it's scary to think of Amazon as a monopoly in the publishing/book selling business. Just as it's scary to think of any single business entity having a stranglehold on an entire market.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm with Dianne. I don't want a monopoly. I'm still sad Borders closed since it started as a Indie where I live. I love bookstores so I hope the physical stores survive.

Jessica Bell said...

Personally I think it's a very stupid move for any bookseller to challenge Amazon. Amazon clearly has their shit together (as much as it makes me mad, it's true). The more people try to push Amazon away, the more power Amazon is going to get. How can B&N not see that? Seriously?

Louise Bates said...

What I think would be a GENIUS move on Amazon's part would be to start forming relationships with indie booksellers. It would bring more business to small stores, because they would carry books that B&N doesn't; it would make Amazon look really good - working with the little guy! - and it would allow Amazon to get their books in brick-and-mortar stores with minimal effort on their part. See? Genius! Stores are happy, Amazon is happy, consumers are happy - B&N isn't, but who cares about them?

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oooh, that would be genius Louise!

Laura Pauling said...

I agree with Louise, but will indie book stores be open to that? Somehow I don't think so.

It's funny how life circles around. B&N used to be the big bad bookstore and now they're the poor innocent underdog with nary a chance to survive. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I just don't see any bookseller coming in an dominating physical stores since so many shop online or buy only eBooks. I think a monopoly by anyone is scary. When one company controls all, what's to stop them from raising prices?

Meredith said...

LOVE the idea of Amazon working with indie booksellers. I tend to buy online these days, but I'm trying to buy a few books at indies, too.

Talli Roland said...

No monopoly is a good thing, but as someone who makes 95 per cent of her living from the 'Zon, well... I can't really complain! I do think they'd do well working directly with indies or existing outlets. Here in the UK they've teamed with one of the biggest high street bookshops.

Matthew MacNish said...

Any monopoly scares the crap out of me, even if Amazon is generally a pretty good company to do business with.

Janet Johnson said...

I just hate the thought of any one group controlling it all. I would LOVE to see the rise of independents again, but gosh, at the moment, I just don't see it.

Amazon does have great customer service, but I'm with Matthew. Monopolies just scare me.

Beth said...

I think physical books are going away. I worry about what this means for bookstores b/c they're my hang out. But B&N in particular is going under. They don't sell self published books. They don't sell from any of amazon's titles. They're not especially kind to bloggers. Bloggers do a lot for book stores and given the choice I'll promote indie over b&n any day. But I think self publishing is where publishing is going, and by not selling any of those titles they're limiting themselves.

Connie Keller said...

It makes me sad to think of physical bookstores going away. But it's definitely possible, especially when I visit my local bookstore and see that it's gone from all books to half books and half DVDs, etc.

As for Amazon becoming a publisher, it seems to me all their business experience is in distribution not development. Two very different things--I wonder how they'll fair. And I wonder how it will affect indies and writer with other houses. Obviously, Amazon would rather market/suggest "their" books as opposed to other books

LTM said...

I've got nothing but love for Amazon as an indie author. They are truly a great friend to writers and my biggest helper w/moving my books of all the bookstores.

BUT! I don't think monopolies are EVER good. Which is why I still put my books at B&N, Smash, Kobo. I don't know competition is healthy. And it's never good to only have one choice.

Great post, Katie! :o) <3

Donna Hosie said...

Anything that is good for writers is good by me. Amazon provide a brilliant service. Monopolies are never good, but bookstores and publishers have got to start thinking strategically. They are all still stuck forty years in the past.

Carrie Butler said...

Interesting post, Katie! I'll be sure to tweet this. :)

Nancy Thompson said...

As much as I enjoy seeing B&N get a taste of their own medicine, I wouldn't want any company to hold a monopoly, and frankly, I don't think any really ever will. But as a resident of Seattle who directly benefits by Amazon's success, I would love to see a flagship store open up here. And I think they should hire your friend, Louise Bates!

Old Kitty said...

Well some shops here have big yellow cubby places from Amazon where people can order via amazon online and pick up their stuff in these shops with the yellow cubby places!! I think that's close enough to having a physical shop - and in the great Amazonian way of doing things - they have these spaces as cheaply as poss - ie using another shop's premises to continue the sale of their stuff! LOL! I doubt Amazon will go the whole hog and have a physical shop - just doesn't seem their way - they are more into getting things as cheaply as possible - not a bad thing, just that's what they do and owning and running a physical space may not be cost-effective for them. I think anyway! Take care
x

Angela Brown said...

I don't want a monopoly either, but I have to admit that I'm surprised a bunch of independent stores didn't network, reach out to Amazon and offer to make their independent locations the "physical Amazon-preferred stops". It's possible that actually did try to occur but didn't make a huge wave.

Not sure how B&N wins by blocking potential revenue. Doesn't make much sense to me.

mshatch said...

Monopolies are bad for business, and especially bad for the book business. Which is why it's so important to support your local bookstore as well as the other local businesses in your town. I try to buy the majority of my books from my local bookstore and my local bookstore rewards me with a frequent buyer discount. I love them :)

Of course, if you live in a big city, you're probably s.o.l.

D.G. Hudson said...

Bookstores, like publishers should become more flexible, not less. I don't think I'd like to see Amazon enter as a store competitor, but if there's a need and money to be made, someone will do it.

Why couldn't buyers in bookstores review sales info on potential self-pubbed books? Why the hierarchy? Protection of the status quo?

Hart Johnson said...

Yeah, I suspect just refusing Amazon's imprints isn't a great idea, though I think they could achieve the same thing and earn themselves a 'quality' reputation if they said 'no self-published unless they meet X,Y,Z standards'. There just are WAY too many self-published books for a brick and mortar store to carry them all, and so insisting books have a proven sales record first seems reasonable.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Thanks for writing this post. I had no idea...

Gwen Gardner said...

I think B&N needs to grow their online business to compete with Amazon if they want to stay in business. Offer self-publishing and the whole thing. What Amazon offers the public, publishers and self-publishers as a whole package isn't really being done by anyone else right yet.

Royce A Ratterman said...

I love the ease and comfort of publishing both Kindle eBooks and Createspace POD through Amazon.
It would be great to see stores around the globe for those who wish to get out of the house/office and away from a computer to browse (I go to our new library here in Norway for the atmosphere feeling)
Go Amazon!
I usually cheer those who advance with the desires and needs of their customers as times change, like Amazon has.
I am so glad to see writers today having the ability and availability to express their full artistic desires through both self and Indie publishing - from cover creation to writing styles and content.

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Mark Murata said...

This was an astounding analysis of the book business scene, and the possible effects of an Amazon bricks and mortar chain.

Louise's suggestion of indie bookstores hooking up with Amazon makes sense. Some would be too snooty and regard that as selling out, others would go for the gold.

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