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Amazon hopes to take Manhattan with New York bookstore

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Amazon Books in Seattle, the company’s first physical bookstore. Another will open in a Manhattan mall this week.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Amazon will open its seventh bookstore on Thursday in New York, the company’s first brick-and-mortar location in the home city of America’s publishing industry.

The 4,000-square-foot store, near the headquarters of publishers Penguin Random House, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, held a soft opening on Tuesday, Publishers Weekly reports.

The New York Times toured the store with Jennifer Cast, the vice president of Amazon books. ““We call this a physical extension of Amazon.com,” she said. “We incorporate data about what people read, how they read it and why they read it.”

She said each store’s inventory is tailored to the tastes of local customers, as is the case in Amazon Books’ six other locations in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

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“We are excited to be here and learn about our New York customers,” Cast said.

Amazon’s first New York store is at the Shops at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, just southwest of Central Park. The company plans to open another physical location this summer across from the Empire State Building, and a store in nearby Paramus, N.J., is also in the works.

Like Amazon’s other locations, books in the New York store are displayed face out, limiting the number of titles in stock. In addition to books, the store sells a range of Amazon electronic devices, like their Kindle e-readers and Echo smart speakers.

Amazon’s foray into New York is likely to alarm the city’s independent bookstores, like Housing Works, the Strand and McNally Jackson, many of which are near the Columbus Circle store and the planned 34th Street location.

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Indie booksellers blame Amazon for the decline of smaller bookstores, most of which are unable to offer the deep discounts that Amazon can provide.

The website Recode published photographs of Amazon Books’ New York store, including one of a display that recommends books to customers based on what they might have read before. If you like J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” for example, the store urges you to buy Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Evicted.”

Recode writer Dan Frommer was less than enthusiastic about the bookstore. “Really, it just feels like a normal mall bookstore,” he writes. “There’s no café, not really anywhere to sit and read, nothing special about the fixtures, a very boring magazine selection and a collection of books that feels blandly standard — not the sense of opinionated curation you’d find at a boutique like Brooklyn’s new Books Are Magic.”

At the website Quartz, writer Thu-Huong Ha was even more critical, writing, “[W]hile the physical store succeeds as an ad for a Prime membership, it fails to be joyful, or even effective, as a bookstore.”

Los Angeles readers will soon have a chance to decide for themselves whether Amazon Books is a winner. Later this year, Amazon will open a physical bookstore in an upscale Century City shopping mall. Amazon already has a bookstore in San Diego, and plans to open locations in Walnut Creek and San Jose.


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