By Patricja Okuniewska
Photos by: Julia Hyacinthe
It’s well-known at this point that Amazon is slowly but surely taking over the world. It has become the new go-to site for purchasing anything and everything: books, clothes, holiday gifts…The list is as endless as the site’s scope.
For a while, Amazon was exclusively an online retailer, confined within the web’s far-reaching limits. That changed in November of 2015, when the company opened its first bookstore in Seattle, Washington, a move that stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Some were enthused by the new physicality of the impersonal online brand, while others were horrified by the strange, impersonal feel to the new brick and mortar space. Since then, Amazon’s plan to acquire more physical space has come to fruition, with a number of other bookstores opening up around the country as well as the company’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods. These physical bookstores are linked to the online company, mainly benefiting Prime members who are able to buy books at the prices they would on amazon.com. For others, the list prices are the same as they would be at Barnes & Noble.
So here’s the good and bad news: Amazon is officially moving into Georgetown. A large glass window on M street bears the now-iconic brand logo, revealing plans to open up shop. Previously owned by Barney’s, the new 10,000 square-foot space has no official opening date. The store will be on the same block as the Barnes & Noble that once stood in place of Nike. Unfortunately, it was forced to close in 2011 after losing revenue in the face of online bookselling—with Amazon a clear culprit.
This could be bad news for small businesses such as Bridge Street Books, which sits just two blocks away. This independent bookstore offers something that an Amazon shop never will—community and charm. For book lovers such as myself, the idea of supporting a local shop by paying full retail price is more enticing than receiving the product at a discount from a large e-seller. I don’t seem to be alone in this opinion; according to newly released earning reports, Amazon is earning practically no revenue from their brick and mortar bookstores. These stores are not meant for people to casually hang out and browse, which is arguably one of the greatest draws of going to bookshops. The idea of walking into a bookstore quickly and then leaving seems wrong. Amazon bookstores offer no surprises; they house the current bestsellers while missing out on the perfect thrill of finding books never heard or seen when browsing through endless shelves.
Ready or not, Amazon is coming to Georgetown, and will undoubtedly shape the book retail landscape as we know it.