The Washington Post reported last week that the mega online retailer, Amazon, would be opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore on M St. in Georgetown. It will go into the space that used to house Barney’s Co-op at 3040 M St.
If you are confused by the idea of Amazon opening a real honest-to-God bookstore, you have company. It is a strategy they have only started to pursue in the last couple years. They have opened such stores in just three other cities: San Diego, Seattle and Portland, OR. There are rumors that they plan to eventually open hundreds of the stores across the country.
But what is the strategy about? Theories abound. Perhaps they want to sell more kindles? Build brand loyalty? Use the stores as cheaper distribution centers (i.e., the customer pays for the final mile, not Amazon)? Who knows.
GM is personally conflicted by this news. It was a shame to lose Barnes and Noble. It provided a great “third place” to hang-out. Maybe the Amazon Bookstore can replicate that? But we still have a great independent bookstore in Georgetown that weathered both the arrival and departure of Barnes and Noble: Bridge Street Books. It doesn’t have the wide selection of a big box store like Barnes and Noble (or whatever Amazon is likely to build). But GM always makes a point of buying books there, even when it requires ordering it.
But there’s definitely something to be said about browsing the endless book isles of a big book store. And maybe the Amazon store will have a good kids section too, with periodic events.
There’s a lot of irony wrapped up in the announcement. Amazon represents one of the largest single elements that is devastating retail across the country. And here it is, entering the retail market it itself has laid to waste. Literally next door to the building that once housed a Barnes and Noble that was almost certainly done in by Amazon.
GM would much rather be seeing a place like Politics and Prose opening up in Georgetown. But this is what we’ve got. If you’ve got qualms about this like GM, it might make sense to think of it this way: If you already feel a little guilt buying books online from Amazon (and you probably should), maybe buying it from a real storefront blocks from your house will be less guilt-inducing?