The Amazon Books Experience

Amazon opened it’s first brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle on Nov. 3, 2015. Located in University Village, an outdoor shopping center across the street from the University of Washington, the location has been described by reviewers as both “unimpressive” and “bizarre.” Amazon has built it’s brand on being the “go to” location for anything and everything consumers could ever want— an unending, virtual megastore, but the first physical location of an Amazon store seems to be anything but. Rob Salkowitz of Forbes referred to the small bookstore as “more Waldenbooks than Barnes & Noble.” The first reviews are reporting that the store, which claims it has hired professional, qualified booksellers to “curate” it’s shelves, is lacking in selection and offers a strange variety of what appears to be excess stock.

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Even stranger still is the way customers are made to shop in the store. There are no prices listed for any of the books or merchandise; the customer must scan a bar code using the Amazon app on their smartphone (if they don’t have the Amazon app or a smartphone, a bookseller will scan it for you). All the shelf tags contain the star ratings and snippets of reviews that you would see when shopping online, but absolutely no pricing information. When asked why the process of browsing for books is made so difficult for the customer, Amazon explains that its prices may fluctuate and they want to ensure that they are offering the same price to every customer, the one that is listed on Amazon.com.

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In his review of the bookstore Salkowitz asks a question that I’m sure most Amazon Books shoppers were left asking themselves: If you’re going to open a physical location of an already massive online bookstore, why open such a crappy one? His answer hits the nail on the head… Amazon Books doesn’t care about selling books. Instead of titling this post “The Amazon Books Experience” perhaps “The Amazon Books Experiment” would have been more appropriate.

By requiring shoppers to price scan using their Amazon app anytime they’re interested in a book, the customer is unwittingly sending Amazon their shopping habit information, preferences, and history, along with all their personal information. All this data is being tracked by Amazon’s massive cloud data service. So maybe Salkowitz is right, maybe this tiny brick and mortar bookstore born from it’s megaparent, Amazon.com, isn’t really a bookstore after all, but the physical location of Amazon’s experiment in blending physical and digital commerce. Very sneaky, Amazon, very sneaky. Let’s hope this isn’t the future of all of our retail shopping experiences— where our movements, histories, and data are tracked at every turn. Let’s hope that Amazon retires back to the web where it belongs soon, and that another monopoly on the way we shop hasn’t just been born.

Check out Salkowitz’s article here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2015/11/04/amazons-retail-store-has-nothing-to-do-with-selling-books/

***Heather Hickox earned a Bachelor’s in English at Middle Tennessee State University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Professional Studies in Publishing at the George Washington University. Her writing has been published in several editions of Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression and VSA TN’s 40 Days Around the World. Heather is a Writing Facilitator for The Carnegie Writers, Inc. in Nashville, TN.

Textbooks and Open Educational Resources

Professor Alain Bourget of California State University-Fullerton is defending his action of choosing a cheaper option textbook for his students instead of the $180 one imposed by his department. He says the $75 book he choose, supplemented with free online resources, is just as effective as the department-chosen book.

According to a writer for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik, the case is “being closely watched by advocates of open educational resources (free online materials, commonly called OER) who see the dispute as a sign they need to challenge not only traditional textbooks but traditional methods of selecting textbooks.”

Nicole Allen, director of open education at SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) says this case shows how the marketplace often evolves faster than current campus practices. She says, “Ten years ago long-term departmental adoptions were considered good for affordability since it allows a strong local used-book market to develop. Now it can work against students by perpetuating the traditional publishing industry’s stranglehold on the market, which keeps new innovations like OER out.”

I would think that if a department considers the professor qualified enough to teach the course, then that professor should also be qualified enough to choose the book from which to teach. Professor Bourget says he is frustrated by constant releases of new editions, making it difficult for his students to buy used books. He simply wants to help his students, who “aren’t rich” he says, get the same level of education at a more affordable price.

There are ethical questions in play here besides price, though. The authors of the $180 book are also the chair and vice-chair of the mathematics department at the university. While the school has said that the authors did not participate in the decision to use the book, it still seems odd that they would choose this book instead of an identified cheaper option for their students.

David Wiley, leader of the Open Education Group at BYU who works with schools and colleges on using OER states that failure to use less expensive options “when department leaders are benefiting financially from the status quo, raises ethical questions.”

This may just be another sign that the status quo of educational publishing (and selection) needs to be revised to be as flexible as the current age.

By: Briana Farr

http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/11/high-priced-textbook-adoption-spurs-debate-in-california/#.Vj0sKberS72

Geolocating: A new book sales technique?

chelsea-state-bank-2It’s coming down to the generation of the iPad; the generation that is constantly “plugged in” on multiple screens. The question plaguing publishers, and the industry in general, is how to keep the focus of these screen-generation kids, and even their parents long enough to get them to read. Or better yet, to sell them the book, even if it’s the digital version.

According to Book Business geolocating beacons may be an answer. Utilizing a technique that uses a low frequency Bluetooth signal, you can alert smartphones within a certain distance about products, events, etc. Business Insider estimates that in 2014, about eight percent of retailers were using these beacons, but that at least 85 percent will have them by the end of 2016.

This offers a huge opportunity for book publishers. They can market to users who are passing by a book that may be relevant to their needs, a travel guide perhaps? Or alerting them to a new release, an old classic, or even just reminding them that the store is having a sale or an event. The downside, is that the receivers of this alert will have to download the app. FourSquare for book purchasing!

Information needs to be voluntarily received, which means the downside is that if people aren’t downloading the app – it won’t be useful. But for the users of the app in 2014, after a three month study, 60 percent of the users interacted with the alerts and opened them while 30 percent of them redeemed the alert.

This could be a new marketing technique for publishers in the near future.

 

Source: Book Business Magazine