Amazon, the online giant whose existence threatened brick-and-mortar bookstores, has opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Manhattan. But according to reviews, it seems more like a giant Amazon Prime ad than a cozy bookstore where page-lovers can chill with like-minded folk.
"It seems to be a vehicle to drive people to the app and to being a Prime member," customer Jennifer Rak, 36, told CNN Money.
A CNN Money reporter asked Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books, about that, but said Cast deflected the question.
"Our main purpose is to help people discover great books. It's that simple," she said. It is "certainly great" if customers want to take advantage of Prime's discounted pricing, she added.
The Columbus Circle store, on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, carries 3,000 book titles as well as Amazon tech products for consumers to test out and buy.
The 4,000 square-foot space — significantly smaller than a typical Barnes & Noble — is Amazon’s seventh bookstore in the country, with a total of 13 IRL stores planned, according to Quartz.
Amazon bookstore's opening in Columbus Circle tomorrow. Reminder that you should buy books literally anywhere else.— Emily Hughes ✨(@emilyhughes) May 24, 2017
The cashless bookstore is located in Columbus Circle, where Borders closed its shutters in 2011 (along with hundreds of other locations) and a short jaunt to the grave of Barnes & Noble, which sold books in that location for 16 years.
The books all face outward above signs that provide the number of stars the product received by online Amazon shoppers. What the signs are missing is the price.
The prices vary, with Amazon Prime members typically getting the better deal. Amazon Prime memberships cost $99 per year and give members access to movies, music and TV shows like “Transparent.”
For Prime members to get the discounted price, the employee at the checkout scans a QR code in the Prime app. You can charge it to your Prime account or pay with a credit card. The store does not accept cash.
.@amazon Columbus Circle Bookstore review: terrbile. 0/10. Like a supermarket's selection.— Kyle Schnitzer (@Kyle_Schnitzer) May 25, 2017
Non-Prime customers pay the price listed on the book, which is typically more expensive than the price listed on Amazon.com.
A writer for Time Out New York said the books feel very much like “products,” but the store is quite organized.
The experience lacks the human connection offered at smaller stores.
A writer for Quartz said independent bookstores offer, first and foremost, humans.
“They have humans who like books, have a sense of noncorporate humor and leave little handwritten staff reviews (with those charming, self-effacing comments) that lead you to your next good read,” according to the article.
Cast told CNN Money that she hopes the Amazon store makes it where the others didn’t.
"We have 20 years of experience delighting people online,” she said.