CHECK YOURSELF

You will literally never guess how to shop at Amazon’s new bookstore

Obsession
How We Buy
Obsession
How We Buy

Amazon Books, the first brick-and-mortar store from the e-commerce goliath, opened earlier this week (Nov. 3) in Seattle.

Around the aisles, signs tout the fact that in-store prices are the same as they are online. And here’s how you find those prices: You can use the Amazon app to scan the cover of the book or a barcode listed near the book; take the book to a price-checking station; or ask an employee to scan the book for you.

That’s because in-store prices fluctuate just as they do on the website.

That price flexibility could, in theory, offer better deals. But some visitors are already complaining. Says Seattle-based culture site City Arts, “For a place that wants to encourage community, the store prefers me staring at my phone. A lot.” Tech site Ars Technica writes, “For the most part, we found the shop—and its reliance on the Amazon smartphone app—something that we had no desire to ever return to again.”

Store manager Nick Ewing tells Quartz that he hopes Amazon’s reputation for competitive prices online will put shoppers at ease as they look around. “It’s very different—people aren’t used to this in a bookstore,” he says, “But once people have understood it, they’ve liked it.”

For a first-timer, pulling out an app does seem like a surprisingly round-about way of in-store shopping, especially from a retailer known for convenience. And in the absence of an app, few shopping experiences are as user-unfriendly as having to ask an associate how much all your items cost, as you mentally tally the bill.

The original, virtual Amazon.com is a site that embraces the immediacy of the digital—prices are listed in-line with book covers, and just pixels away from a button that lets you buy the book and have it sent to you, all with a single click. Only time will tell if the new stickerless in-store experience can top the awesome feeling of shopping in bed, glass of wine in one hand, ready to buy with the other.

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