BUSINESS

Amazon’s Book Store Serves As An Ad For Prime Memberships

It was opening day at the online retailer's newest location, its first in New York City

BUSINESS
People enter the newly opened Amazon Books in New York City — Getty Images
May 25, 2017 at 5:54 PM ET

Amazon has been selling books online for 20 years, but in the last few years, it’s been going old school by opening brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. The latest retail location opened up in New York City on Thursday.

Amazon Books serves as an extension of Amazon.com. The store is cashless and runs on the Amazon app, which customers use by scanning books to see pricing — there are also in-store scanners for those who don’t have the app. Unlike other booksellers that carry titles ranging in popularity and critical success, Amazon’s store only carries about 3,000 books at a time. which strictly consist of bestsellers and books with four star ratings and above on Amazon.com.

On Amazon Books’ opening day in New York City, the store was aesthetically pleasing, especially since all books were spread out and faced forward (as opposed to shelved with the spine out). All books are also presented with cards that show their online rating and a review from an online customer.

In all, Amazon Books seems like an ideal store, but in fact, a customer’s experience might vary depending on whether or not they have an Amazon Prime Membership. This is because customers of Prime will pay the price on Amazon’s website, while others pay the list price. For example, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood costs $14.71 for Prime members and $22 for regular customers. Caitlyn Jenner’s new book is $17.53 with a Prime membership and $30 at regular price. “The Fault In Out Stars’” Prime price is $7.87 and list price is $12.99. Each price fluctuates from book to book, but it’s always a significant difference.

Vocativ asked Amazon if one of its goals is to increase Prime membership sign-ups, but the company just said its goal “is to help customers and readers discover great books.”

Customers shopping at the opening of the New York City store said that it felt like Amazon is going backward by having a physical store since everyone likes buying online nowadays because of the convenience.

“When I heard about the store I said, ‘I have to go check it out,’” one shopper, Alia, told Vocativ. “But I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s tangible, but I still like buying online.”

There was a line to get inside the store, located at Columbus Circle, but there was no actual line at the checkout lane — maybe due to the store being filled with many journalists. The occasional customer might wait in line out of curiosity, but would be disappointed upon getting in and learning there was no celebrity doing a book signing.

Amazon plans to have 13 bookstores opened by the end of the year across the nation — there are currently six. The online retailer said these stores are permanent, which might keep bringing more competition to existing bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, which has been closing several stores across the U.S. Amazon Books might also bring competition to local bookstores, but some aren’t too worried.

“I’m happy there’s a new store where people can see books and encounter them, but I’d rather we were in there,” Chris Doeblin, the owner of Book Culture, an independent bookstore on the Upper West Side, told The New York Times. “If I had the money, I would go and open a store right next to Jeff Bezos’s store.”