Book chains better watch out: Amazon is coming to town

Bookstores are a reference for the procrastinating gift-getter, a one-stop shop that has something for everyone.

But there's a new kid on the block this holiday season as online giant Amazon slips into the physical realm, with 13 brick and mortar stores across the United States and counting.

In the upmarket suburb of Bethesda, Washington, the transformation of the sector is played out: the traditional Barnes & Noble bookstore closes its doors and Amazon arrives in town – with a shiny new store that will soon open two minutes "s & # 39; remove.

"I think the elephant in the room is Amazon," said Donna Paz Kaufman, an industry consultant based in Florida. "Everyone in the publishing is concerned about the huge market share that Amazon has acquired."

Since he began dominating the dominance of e-commerce in 1995, Amazon has been a thorn in the foot of independent bookstores and big chains, with borders closed in 2011.

The numbers of Barnes & Noble, meanwhile, decrease.

The Barnes & Noble in Bethesda, on three floors, is more than just a shop: coffee drinkers dominate passers-by, while children gather around a storytelling scene, decorated with creatures of the woods.

But Barnes & Noble says he could not hear on a lease extension, and the store will close in January after two decades.

In the air, more than 5,600 people signed a petition urging the Federal Realty Investment Trust – the owner – to "enter into a fair leasing agreement" and to keep Barnes open & Noble.

Sarah Pekkanen, a local writer whose first book signing was in the store, called closing "a loss."

"I take my children there all the time, I know some people who work there," she told AFP. "It's always sad when a good bookstore closes."

Although it was a big box store that was threatening the independent sellers, long-time customer Liz Cummings said that Barnes & Noble "has become part of the community."

But although she is appalled by the loss, Cummings, who runs a local writing center, is hosting the early days of the Amazon district.

"There is no concern as far as I know, because people want to be able to search for books," Cummings said. "We will take it."

Amazon told AFP that it would only stock bestsellers or highly rated titles and would feature local authors in the store, which he said was "all about the discovery. "

For the industry, which counts a growing number of independents according to the American Booksellers Association, the home of Amazon is no longer a challenge – but not something to do pouting.

"Our culture is under threat if there is no diversity in the number of book outlets," said analyst Kaufman.

She believes that Amazon's move to the brick-and-mortar market – with stores selling books and technology like the Kindle e-reader and Fire tablet – is to gain access to a certain type of customer.

"We know that their interest in the bookstore world is really a portal," she said. "You have high-end, educated, high-income customers who are the first to embrace technology."

"They started with books because they wanted the profile of those customers who would then buy a lot of other things."

But independent bookstores are here to stay, she said, because they can dodge the key question of scale, which paralyzed the big chains.

In addition, "young people want authenticity," she said.

"They are not necessarily big on big," she said – adding that consumers "are looking for something beyond the click".

His assessment echoes an upcoming Harvard Business School study on the resurgence of independent bookstores, whose numbers – according to the study, citing ABA – increased by 35 percent between 2009 and 2015, after falling 43 percent between 1995 and 2000.

The author of the study, Ryan Raffaeli, said that community involvement, thoughtful curation and the "convening" – the organization of events to attract like-minded customers – help independent stores survive and thrive.

Former Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham and his wife Lissa Muscatine, former speech writer for Hillary Clinton, who took over Washington's flagship bookstore Politics and Prose in 2011, testify to these discoveries.

Their store is roughly equidistant from the upmarket Georgetown neighborhood of Bethesda and Washington – which also lost its Barnes & Noble in 2011, and should receive an Amazon Books on the same block.

Although Graham admits that the "convenience and cost" of Amazon is hard to beat, he believes that there is "room on the market for them as for us".

He compares local bookstores to community centers – and he is not convinced that the giant of cyberspace can reproduce this crucial human touch.

"We are more agents of culture than instruments of commerce," he said.

Although the independents have "weathered the storm," Graham said, the bookstore remains a narrow-bound game, with off-book offerings and behind-the-scenes technology crucial to boost revenue and reduce administrative costs .

Still, he remains optimistic about the prospects of bookstores.

"The book, with some improvements, has existed for several centuries, which is reassuring," he jokes, reflecting that the "relaxation that has hosted the first electronic books" is somewhat dispelled.

As for Amazon, its message is clear: "Welcome to the neighborhood," he said. "Bring it."

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