5 Things You Should Know About the New Amazon Bookstore (and How This Will Impact Authors)

Photo: KING
Photo: KING

People used to hear the word “Amazon” and think of a rainforest. Then, the word was taken over by some new online bookstore. Boy, how times have changed. Now, the word Amazon is ingrained in our culture as a virtual megastore where you can order anything from food to electronics.

But Amazon continues to morph itself, recently opening its first physical bookstore across the street from the University of Washington.  So what is in this new Amazon bookstore? How can it compete with the online version? And will this change book shopping at all?

Here are five things you need to know…

  1. It’s a lot smaller than the mega-bookstores of the 90s. Expecting the Amazon store to be the next multi-level Barnes and Noble? It’s not. Here’s how Publishers Weekly describes it: “Amazon Books stocks far fewer titles than today’s bigger bookstores. Small and scaled back, Amazon Books is cleanly designed and easy-to-navigate.”
  2. Each book’s Amazon ratings and such are baked in. Actually, it’s not quite that simple. You actually need to download an Amazon app to use this feature (or ask a sales associate for help). But once you do, you can simply scan the custom label on each book to get access to its rating and reviews on the website.
  3. Only books with four stars or more are housed. Yup, you read that correctly. Unless your book has a least four stars on Amazon, it will not be carried in the Amazon store. Now that doesn’t mean the reverse; not ALL books with four stars make it in the store. But with less than four stars, your chance of being carried there is nil.
  4. Store prices are the same as online prices. Amazon proudly boasts that the price of a book in the bookstore is identical to that on the website. To that end, there are no printed prices on anything (the app lets you see that as well). And you can ignore the price on the back of the book cover. Book prices change frequently on Amazon, and the app allows it to simultaneously change in the bookstore as well.
  5. Amazon is, in many ways, sticking to what bookstores do best. Publishers Weekly reports that the store’s book selections are deepest in traditional bookstore strongholds: children’s/YA books, bestsellers and genre fiction. Graphic novels (a genre in which browsing is super-important) also has a respectable section.

So what does all this mean for authors? Well, it’s hard to make a proclamation on that very quickly. But it’s probably safe to say that this is not going to be the only Amazon brick and mortar store. The company isn’t saying much about what their plans for the future will be, but barring a huge failure in this location, there will likely be others popping up in the years to come.

Are they going to completely transform the idea of a bookstore? Will they reinvigorate the idea of physical bookstores? All of that is still to be determined. But we can deduce a few things from this information:

  • Your Amazon ratings and reviews are more important than ever before. If you have less than four stars, you’re not going to make much progress through Amazon marketing channels.
  • Getting a book carried in a bookstore will likely require new and different strategies. But much like a Google search algorithm, it may be a while before we understand the logic behind which books are picked up.
  • The world isn’t going all e-book just yet. There’s still a value to physical books that you can flip through and browse.

What do you think of the new Amazon bookstore? Will it help or hurt authors? Share your thoughts!