For the first time since 2007, bookstores recorded an uptick in sales this year. MIT Technology Review explains what Amazon is doing with Amazon Books:
The theories are intriguing, and they may contain bits of truth. But the real impetus behind the stores is probably much simpler: Amazon wants to sell more books.
Not long ago, the common wisdom held that Amazon would remake the book business in its own image. Its Web store would kill off bookstores, and its Kindle would render physical books obsolete. In an interview in 2009, 18 months after the Kindle’s launch, Jeff Bezos suggested that the “great 500-year run” of the printed book was coming to an end. “It’s time to change,” he declared. Readers had a different idea. After an initial boom, sales of digital books went flat and then started to fall—in the mainstream trade-book market, e-book revenues dropped 11 percent in 2015 alone, according to the Association of American Publishers—while sales of printed books, far from collapsing, held steady.
Bookstores, too, have been making a comeback, led by small, independent shops. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sales in bookstores grew 2.5 percent in 2015, the first uptick since 2007, and the growth rate strengthened to 6.1 percent during the first half of 2016. The number of newly opened bookshops has also been on the rise.
Bezos underestimated the allure of bricks and paper. With his bookstore chain, he now seems to be admitting that if Amazon is to expand its share of the book market, it will need to invest in bricks as well as bits.
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