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Seattle's Amazon Books | © SounderBruce/WikiCommons
Seattle's Amazon Books | © SounderBruce/WikiCommons
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Amazon's Second Bookstore To Open Next Year In Chicago

Picture of Elizabeth Newhart
Updated: 7 November 2016
Online retail giant Amazon opened its first physical store, Amazon Books, in Seattle last year to great controversy. Their second location is opening in San Diego any day now, and a third will pop up in Portland during the fall. According to Business Insider, Chicago will be their fourth city. There are already rumors of a New York store in the works, and expansion is sure to continue across the country in coming years.

The Chicago store is set to open in summer 2017 on Southport Avenue in Lakeview. The address seems to align with Amazon’s customer strategy as both locations for Chicago and Seattle are in heavily white, trendy, and upscale neighborhoods. Though Amazon is the popular economical option when it comes to buying novels and textbooks alike, their technology-heavy outposts are distinctly appealing to the young, affluent consumer.

Amazon Books store in Seattle, courtesy of Flickr: SounderBruce
Amazon Books store in Seattle | © SounderBruce/Flickr

In Seattle, books are displayed face out, rather than lined on a shelf. Each book has a placard beneath with the title information, average ratings, a barcode to scan on their app, and one review from an Amazon customer. It encourages shoppers to be present in the physical store while still interacting with their online presence. They also don’t list prices in the store but sell books according to how they are priced on the website, which can change daily. Books are organized not only by traditional genre but also by ‘top sellers’ and ‘4.5 stars and above,’ incorporating yet another element of their site formula. It brings filtering to the real world.

The stores also place a heavy emphasis on their tech gadgets like the Kindle, Echo, and AmazonBasics line. They are set up on displays for customers to browse, test, and purchase – similar to products in the Apple Store or Nooks at Barnes & Noble.

These retail choices are quick to eliminate those without smartphones, or those without basic knowledge of the Amazon site or app. It is, by technical definition, a bookstore. But Amazon takes its own liberties with the label to remain unique and competitive in the book-selling market that they all but abolished during the tech boom.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos | © Steve Jurvetson/WikiCommons
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (cropped image) | © Steve Jurvetson/WikiCommons

After Amazon and the World Wide Web began gaining popularity in the retail world around the turn of the century, independent shops shuttered rapidly. They couldn’t compete with the web’s novelty, convenience, and low cost. It’s taken nearly a decade and a half, but independent bookstores are finally on the upswing again. Online shopping is still a massive market, but it’s no longer new. E-book sales are trickling, and shoppers have returned to the nostalgic sensory experience of browsing books in real life, giving small shops an edge over online competitors. But now that Amazon is infiltrating the brick-and-mortar market with apparent success and plans to expand their stores beyond books and gadgets, it could mean serious trouble once again for all the underdogs of the retail world.