Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.
Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.
Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was announced last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.
It makes sense that Amazon would shoot for tourist hot spots, particularly ones that aren’t near New York City’s other landmark bookstores — The Strand off Union Square, McNally Jackson in Lower Manhattan, or Greenlight Books in Fort Greene, which have managed to survive the bookstore apocalypse thanks to their own hard-won status as tourist attractions. Presumably Amazon is also aware that an algorithmic bookstore has a strong novelty appeal: it’s probably smart to bet on out-of-towners and on foot traffic, rather than locals protective of what neighborhood bookshops remain in the five boroughs.
As indie publisher Melville House Books points out on the Moby Lives blog, “New York has been hemorrhaging Barnes and Nobles for years now, and — for a city of its size and cultural footprint — it has an embarrassing dearth of smaller, community-oriented stores.” Amazon has undoubtedly contributed to the slow strangulation of small bookstores in New York and across the country, and is now showing up to try to fill in the hole they left. It’s not exactly inspiring, and if this review of a Chicago location is any indicator — it’ll be a glimpse into a world of computer-generated utter nonsense.
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