These two book retailers are as different as it gets. Amazon is taking over the world in about every sector of commerce and Barnes and Noble has been dealing with tough times for a few years now. There are a few reasons for that – people read less; they often choose electronic or audio books over traditional paper ones, and more and more of us do most of our shopping online. All of those reasons are why Amazon is winning.
Until recently it was impossible to compare both retailers side by side because Amazon was exclusively online and didn’t have any physical locations. It’s beginning to change now with the establishment of over 10 Amazon Book Stores. This is just an extra blow to traditional book sellers like Barnes and Noble.
We shopped at Amazon Books store in Manhattan and Barnes and Noble in Newport Beach, California. The differences are staggering and the future of book shopping is not looking very colorful, but let’s go there step by step.
First, let’s look at Amazon Books. The store strikes with its sterile feeling as soon as you walk in. You feel like you entered an Apple store with its pristine, but cold interior, black and white colors, and LED lighting. The shelves are compact, low, full of books, and monochromatic. The organization of products can be overwhelming and prevents aimless browsing. People who come here must know what they want and get to that section without any distractions. Again, some warmth and coziness would be very welcome, at least for our taste.
The moto of Amazon is often efficiency, but that is very hard to achieve with books without making shoppers go crazy with the amount of information. The books are all facing the buyer, making the store feel like a warehouse. Before long we didn’t know where to look anymore.
Each book also has a tag with lots of small text and with recommendations by Amazon customers. It seems that all the best books are picked by consumers only and this gives way for very mixed selection that doesn’t follow any rules or patterns.
Just like with more traditional book stores, you will find award-winning, best-selling, and critically-acclaimed authors at the forefront, making it easier to find populistic reads and classic books for people who just wonder around.
Due to this not very systematic display that follows the same pattern you would find on Amazon.com or when you search for books on Google, we didn’t find many reasons why we should make our way to this store versus just ordering what we need online.
Price was another issue, and a significant one for us. There are no prices on the books or under them. You can find it via scanning the book with a machine or on Amazon app. There were a few machines in the store, but it seemed like a less convenient way to go about it than just finding the price on the book itself. It’s actually easier to discover prices while shopping online than in the store.
Amazon Books was definitely not all about books as we saw a few displays of Amazon products, like Echo and stations for Kindle. We couldn’t help but feel that Amazon is selling books as a cover up for the larger purpose – to get you deeper into the network and to sell you more products in the future, not books.
The store resembles the online Amazon with its abundant options and various ways to find what you are looking for. While that works for the online giant, the model might not as pleasant for a physical book store. We feel that the point of going to the book store at this day and age is to have an experience and Amazon Books try to resemble the online shopping, so what’s the reason to visit it then?
Now let’s talk about Barnes and Noble. First of all, if you want an experience, you will definitely get it at this store and then some. As soon as you walk into it, you can right away see the strengths and the weaknesses of it. If there is one thing the store knows how to do, is display books in a way that not’s too much, but just right. And then they destroy it with also selling too many unrelated to books things. Granted, the retailer is trying to survive and make some money on stuffed toys, memorabilia, and candy, but this side show can be a bit distracting.
Other than a bit of desperation for money and dollar-store type of displays, we love the spirit of Barnes & Noble and the culture that it represents, the old days. Families with kids love to come to the book store and can spend hours there all thanks to the coziness factor, the smell and feel of books, the muted colors, and the natural wood shelves. All of that together translates into a feeling that keeps people coming back, kind of like the feeling of real paper books in hands versus cold electronic readers with words.
- 5% OFF Your First Order15% OFF Your First Order
- Free U.S. Shipping on all Orders Over $25
Barnes and Noble book store in Newport Beach was large, and most of them are that way, so you can just wonder around through the maze of book shelves without noticing the time. The same goes for kids, who treat the store as a giant playroom and fall in love with books. All of those choices and beautiful displays ensure that you won’t leave the store without something good in your shopping basket.
This is one place where traditional doesn’t mean ineffective, actually quite the opposite. Every display includes some books facing the buyer and some with just spines towards the pathways. This way you will see the books, get interested, but won’t feel overwhelmed.
We paid especially close attention to the kids’ section and can definitely understand why kids want to come back there all the time. It really feels like a play room more than a store. Besides hundreds of titles and kid-friendly series for all ages, kids will find stuffed toys and educational games, which might be a bit annoying for parents, but lovely for the littles.
Finally, Barnes and Noble host many sales events for kids and adults. It’s not uncommon to find free books for reading in summer, where kids read 8 books and get one free for keeping. Amazon Book store is not taking time to offer anything similar to instill the love of reading.
We especially love Barnes and Noble Kids’ Club, which is free to join and offers 30% off a kids’ book or toy for joining and then has rewards and special offers later. The program like this is a sure ticket for kids to join the world of books and remain in it through life.
All in all, we love books and we choose Barnes and Noble help us nurture that love with its products and atmosphere, where kids and adults can enjoy some quiet time without feeling overwhelmed and rushed into a network of continuous spending just to keep up with the latest gadgets.