Books Are Back: Amazon and Barnes & Noble Spar Over Physical Book Stores

That’s right. The creator of the Kindle- the almighty physical book destroyer- now has physical bookstore locations. At this point, when Amazon starts dipping its toes into a new market, the rest of the business world better pay attention. And when Amazon doubles back on something like physical books? That can only mean good things for those of us who can’t stand not having the feel of paper in our hands when we read.

Amazon released the Kindle nine years ago, on November 19, 2007. It was an e-reader juggernaut that sold out in less than six hours and remained sold out for another five months. The Kindle allowed book enthusiasts a completely new experience- an experience that disrupted the norm, and caused regular bookstores to shudder with terror.

Readers could download books from an online library, often at a reduced cost, and enjoy them at their leisure in any sort of lighting. Say goodbye to huddling under that one lone lamp in the living room while the rest of the family watched TV. Say hello to reading anywhere, anytime, anything, with one slender device. Traveling? Drag those heavy books back out of your suitcase. Moving? Leave all those moldy paperbacks in the Goodwill pile. The Kindle e-reader was here to save the day.

We are now well into the eighth generation of the Kindle, with a variety of LCD versions available along with their corresponding accessories. And what did Amazon decide to do for the latter 2000s?

Open up physical bookstores.

The first Amazon Books location opened up in Seattle in 2015, and there are now eight total physical locations. Six more locations are slated to open in the near future, and some reports have suggested that more than 400 total locations are expected. 400 might be an exaggeration when we look back to 2017 in the future, but it also might not be. Physical book buyers are alive, and well, or so Amazon seems to be saying.

So what, then, are big chains like Barnes & Noble doing to combat Amazon’s newest wave of physical competition? They’re doing all they can do. They’re reinventing the bookstore experience. Barnes & Noble, certain locations of which already contain things like coffee stands, is looking to entice people back into their stores with… full-service restaurants. In June of 2016, Barnes & Noble announced their plans to dabble in the food trade, and by December had locations open in New York and Minnesota.

The restaurants include fare like kale salad, brick-cooked chicken, and, of course, wine and beer. Some people have pointed out that certain food items on the menu actually cost more than the average printed book would. Ultimately, however, Barnes & Noble just wants you in their doors. Lackluster performance in sales (thanks, Kindle) have given them the kick they needed to begin inventing a new way to attract buyers to the physical book market.

Regardless of how they’re trying to get us to buy, it’s exciting to see big-name companies sparring over physical bookstores. The Kindle offers something very special indeed, but it doesn’t replace the experience of holding a printed copy of the text in your hands. Neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble have that dusty, eclectic charm most hole-in-the-wall bookstores have, either. The Kindle and other similar e-readers may have swept the industry when they first came out, but today we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in the physical locations selling physical books. Amazon Books will sell alongside Barnes & Noble, and Barnes & Noble will sell alongside those ma-and-pa shops selling names and titles you’ve never seen before.

Personally, we’re thrilled. We never did buy into that whole “e-reader” stuff.