Did Amazon Just Replace the Public Library? – The Atlantic
Itâ€™s often been said that Apple Storesâ€”soaring glass, sweeping stairs, light-flooded spaces echoing with the din of human voicesâ€”function, in their way, as secular cathedrals. The storesâ€” though the word â€œstoreâ€ doesnâ€™t quite feel adequateâ€”celebrate both introspection and communion. They are meant to humble and inspire. â€œThey feel iconic, like an emblem of the personal,â€ the cultural historian Erica Robles-Anderson has put it.
Appleâ€™s success in translating the religious revivalism of digital retail spaces into physical ones is something other brands (Google, Microsoft, Samsung) have tried to emulateâ€”with, generally, much less success. Theirs are stores that have not been converted, via savvy branding, into temples. But now thereâ€™s another digital retail behemoth trying to take a lesson from Apple: Amazon. Which on Tuesday opened its own digital-to-physical retail space: a large bookstore named, simply, Amazon Books. The store, in Seattleâ€™s University Village, is notably (and, of course, ironically) Barnes & Noble-like in its aesthetic. Thereâ€™s a lot of wood. There are a lot of shelves. There are a lot of books! The dream of the â€™90s is alive in Seattle, apparently.
Amazon Books is on the one hand a continuation of efforts its parent company has made with its grocery offerings and locker-based pick-up systems: experiments with the merging of digital retail and physical. (The store is â€œa physical extension of Amazon.com,â€ its press release notes. Itâ€™s also â€œa store without walls.â€)
But Amazon Books is also much more than simply another delivery platform. This is a store in the manner of TOMS, with its attached artisanal cafes, and of Anthropologie, with its integrated art installations: Itâ€™s a space that encourages patrons to hang out in, to spend time in, to settle down in. Amazon Books, like a Barnes & Noble of yore, comes complete with plush leatherette chairs for relaxed reading. There are open areas for browsing and chatting. Thereâ€™s a kidsâ€™ area. (â€œRelax, read, and discover great books with your children,â€ the release invites.)