Amazon Bookstores Are Creepy and Here's Why

While visiting one of my best friends in Los Angeles over the weekend, I ventured into one of Amazon’s in-person bookstores. The concept of this store confused me, since Amazon virtually put conventional bookstores out of business through the convenience it offered consumers by selling a seemingly infinite amount of titles online. All things considered, I decided to give this store a chance since browsing in bookstores brings me great joy.

I was expecting Amazon’s take on a conventional bookstore with a couple of allusions to its own online marketplace. What I got was the same chilling sensation that I get while watching Black Mirror. Upon entering, I saw that less than half of the store had actual books in it. To take things even further there were maybe two conventional sections in this store: fiction and nonfiction. The books in the store were pushed against the wall, coincidentally overshadowed by elaborate displays featuring the latest gadgets and Amazon technology.

When I entered this store, sleek wood tables greeted me with stacks of featured titles arranged by Amazon-specific labels. There was a section titled, “Products With 4.8 Star Ratings or Higher.” This section contained a couple of board games, a few children’s picture books, and a couple of glossy tomes designated for one’s coffee table in order to generate small talk. There was another section called, “Books with More Than 10,000 Reviews.” I quickly realized that the store followed an extremely flawed mission statement: if an item is popular online, then it will be just as popular in person. However, by creating a store based solely upon what is most successful online, Amazon is attempting to sell to the people what they most likely have already purchased.

To call this location a bookstore is a stretch, especially since the small portion of the store actually dedicated to books had little to no thought put into its layout and signage, with books upon books stacked on one another in a surprisingly unimaginative display. Also, since the store’s selection is watered down to what was most popular among Amazon consumers, there is little to no wiggle room when it comes to finding new authors and titles. In fact, I realized upon leaving that I had heard of every single item in the store. This take on a bookstore completely robs its customer of the sensation of discovery and exploration that often accompanies browsing in such a store.

The contrast between literature and technology in this location seems to force the consumer to make a decision: would you rather spend time in the less-than-impressive book section? Or would you rather explore innovative smart home technology and devices? By presenting these two mediums for entertainment in such drastically opposite manners, Amazon forces even those loyal to the written word to admit that gadgets are more fun. The store in itself is an advertisement encouraging consumers to trust Amazon to make their personal decisions, from what they should read to what technology should power their home.