For as long as I’ve been covering Amazon’s growth, rumors have circulated about the online retailer opening a brick-and-mortar store that serves as a kind of showroom. But I’ve never seen a report as well-researched and as compelling as this Shelf Awareness story suggesting that Amazon is in the process of opening a bookstore in University Village, where Blue C Sushi used to be. And this rumor suggests that it’s specifically a bookstore, and not just a place to buy Amazon’s tablets and hardware, as all the previous rumors have indicated. In fact, Shelf Awareness reports that Amazon has approached area booksellers with offers of starting pay that no local independent bookstore could likely match. You really should go read the whole report; it’s a terrific scoop, and well-reported.
If the report is true, this is a smart spot for Amazon to open a bookstore: University Village has been without a bookseller since Barnes & Noble closed in 2011. That Barnes & Noble reportedly closed over an argument relating to rent; rumor has it the store was very profitable.
There’s plenty of time to chew over this news and the story could change a million different ways before the store actually opens — if, indeed, it actually does open. But on its face, I have to say that Amazon getting into brick-and-mortar bookselling would be a fundamental shift for the online retailer.
The fact is that Seattle loves its bookstores. Most independent bookstores in Seattle have seen increased sales over the last five years. Third Place Books is opening a new branch in Seward Park early next year. This news could be an admission that e-books can only go so far. It could be a unique destination showroom for Amazon, a branding ploy to give the company a warm and approachable human face. (One can imagine the store’s booksellers becoming celebrities on Amazon’s online bookstore.) Or it could be something else entirely. We'll undoubtedly be hearing more about this story soon.
UPDATE 11:24 AM: GeekWire investigated the building site and they said there are already employees stocking books on shelves in the space. Looks like the truth will out sooner than later.