Amazon’s first bookstore opens in NYC, beckoning local readers

There’s no shame in judging a book by its cover in Amazon’s bookstore.

Forward-facing books and placards with their average Amazon.com rating present bookworms with an unconventional shopping experience in the online retailer’s first brick-and-mortar shop in New York.

Take a tour of the store with our Facebook live video.

Many shopping in Amazon Books on its opening day Thursday said they stopped by the midtown store because they were not sure what to expect.

For the past six months, Andrea Bernstein, 66, said she had been eagerly waiting for the bookstore to open in The Shops at Columbus Circle. While perusing the cookbook section of the 4,000-square-foot shop, she admired Amazon Books’ display methods.

“I respond very well to this,” said Bernstein, who lives in the Upper West Side. “I will buy things that I won’t normally buy.”

But some bookstore lovers had mixed feelings about Amazon Books opening in a mall that once housed a Barnes & Noble and a Borders. Catherine Rice, 28, said she grew up near the mall and was disheartened to see nearby bookstores close over the years.

“To see this come back is definitely exciting,” said Rice, who works in publishing. “But at the same time, I wonder is Amazon a monopoly? Is it going to kill all the smaller bookstores?”

Amazon Books stocks 3,000 titles, fewer than some traditional bookstores. The offerings are selected by “curators,” who parse through books with at least 4-star rankings on Amazon.com, pre-order and sales stats and reviews on Goodreads, the literary-focused website. The result is a blend of new titles, classics and what Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books, describes as “hidden gems” that may have escaped the public discussion.

Cast said Amazon adjusted its model based on customer feedback at other Amazon Books locations. As a result, shoppers may scan bar codes linked to specific books to view online reviews and make purchases through their Amazon accounts. Customers can also pay with credit cards, debit cards or gift cards, but not cash.

Despite all the options, some bookworms found themselves out of luck. Upper East Side resident Debra Meyer, 54, does not shop online due to concerns about identity theft and credit card schemes. She was disappointed when staff could not order “Audrey Rose,” which is only available on Amazon’s website, to the store or her home.

Still, Meyer said she could see the shop catching on with younger New Yorkers.

“I’m a baby boomer,” she said. “I don’t really care about my phone. It sits in my pocket.”

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