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Monday, 30 November 2015 | By Louis Gordon


By Louis Gordon, Marcom Manager, Landa Digital Printing

The news that the online retail pioneer Amazon has opened its own digital-to-physical retail space in Seattle’s University Village has been met with surprise, a hint of suspicion and a lot of speculation.

In its online letter to customers, Amazon introduces Amazon Books, a store “without walls,” a new retail paradigm that offers all books and hardware products you are used to buying from the Amazon website.

“Amazon Books is a store without walls – there are thousands of books available in store and millions more available at Walk out of the store with a book; lighten your load and buy it online (Prime customers, of course, won’t pay for shipping); buy an e-book for your Kindle; or add a product to your Amazon Wish List, so someone else can buy it.”

Amazon Books storefront

The new Amazon Books physical bookstore in Seattle’s University Village

No one is saying yet if more store openings are planned. But if their track record is any indication, these “virtual walls” are being built so they won’t come tumbling down any time soon.

Is Amazon’s venture meant to be a live demo of the online buying experience? Or an attempt to capitalize on the resurgence in popularity of printed books? Even more speculative, could it be a sign that the digital e-book revolution that Amazon itself created is not living up to its promise?

Amazon Books’ Brick and Mortar Store Aims to Boost Online Sales

If Amazon Books is a live showcase for in-store customers of all that Amazon sells in the hope that they will buy yet more products from its website, they are certainly doing it in the most inviting, cozy way possible.

Pretty nice.

Amazon Books – store interior

Amazon Books allows you to discover and browse physical books

Beyond the warm wood and attractive furnishings, Amazon claims that all of the books, e-book readers and hardware that it sells in the store will be available for the same price as on the website, despite the overhead that goes with operating such a well-appointed store.

The Print Renaissance

Not long ago, it looked like the book was an endangered species. Readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010. Booksellers watched as customers browsed titles that they would go home to order online if they liked what they saw in the store. In 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.

But despite the gloom and doom prophecy, the print apocalypse never happened. Readers are simply not giving up on books. A recent Washington Post expose pointed to trends that digital natives prefer print. And it’s not just about the sensory experience; studies show it is about better concentration and comprehension.

Reading Between the [Bottom] Lines

The bottom line, of course, trumps studies and surveys. Retail chains, across many retail sectors including booksellers, have been closing branches for years due to low profitability and the trend continued throughout 2015. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year according to the Association of American Publishers with digital books sales holding at a flat 20 percent of the market. Waterstone’s, a major UK bookseller removed Kindles from the shelves this fall due to “pitiful” sales. And while bookstore chains may have fallen by the wayside, independent bookstores are on the rise.

So the jury is still out on what the future holds for the book publishing industry. E-book sales are still formidable and the e-book platform is undoubtedly convenient, flexible, cost-effective, aligned with our digital lifestyle and very green. But despite the naysayers, the printed book is here to stay.

What will make the difference are new technologies like Nanographic Printing® technology that will offer book printers and the publishing industry new opportunities to lower inventory costs, grow profitability and operate in a more environmentally friendly way.

Interesting times indeed – made even more interesting by Amazon in Seattle. In the meantime, I hope to visit Amazon Books. It is near the top of my Seattle “must see” list.

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