Today’s blog considers the threat posed by Amazon’s flagship store opening, highlights the role of brands in the book world and offers hope for a Hollywood ending (as well as a free bottle of wine).
It had to happen, didn’t it?
Just as the Kindle looks as though it needs to incorporate the prefix ‘Re’ and the printed book is mounting a comeback, Amazon park their state of the art Sherman smack bang on the book retailing patio.
‘Amazon is opening a real-life bookshop. The online bookstore didn’t quite manage to kill off the real thing.’ read the headline in this week’s Management Today.
Break a Leg
Following Google’s foray into bricks and mortar, the tech giant announced that it will offer staff picks, reader recommendations and place most books cover-out. “We realised that we felt sorry for the books that were spine out”, said an Amazon spokesperson in a fit of conspiciously pulp-fictional compassion.
In anticipation of greater competition, increased standards and generally putting books back in the news the book world greeted its neighbour with customary enthusiasm.
“We very much hope it falls flat on its face”, said a spokesperson for Waterstones.
Still, territorial differences aside, the raising of hackles might be premature for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we’re talking about one outlet to date. Obviously if it were the beginning of a bigger assault on the high street there’d be greater cause for concern. But given that the Amazon store is focusing largely on bestsellers, in a like for like scrap the numbers really don’t stack up (notwithstanding that Amazon have the financial muscle to absorb the odd multiple digit write-off).
Secondly, beyond hipster pop-ups, the resurgence in vinyl and of course the recent stabilisation of printed book sales, there is little to suggest that consumer appetites are reversing away from things digital. Certainly there are a few examples of digital brands going physical. But when did you last pop into your local Ebay? Conversely it’ll be cold day in hell before Ocado, Brand Alley or Netflix decide that they need to get into the real estate business. At best the future appears predicated on hybrid models successfully integrating the digital/physical model such as Argos and the resurgent Dominos.
But the greatest reassurance surely lies at the heart of the Amazon brand. It may be that Amazon is simply seeking to add a physical dimension to its brand as Apple does with its own flagship stores. But that’s about as far as the comparison goes. Apple is a brand that people love, providing products they covet. Opening their Apple stores merely provided a place of worship. For Amazon to bring the David and Goliath fiction of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ to life by appearing alongside the very competition it is accused of strangling is the equivalent of Darth Vader turning up at an Ewok christening. It would be a pretty thick-skinned piece of brand management, bordering on denial, that chose to ignore the less savoury impressions of the Amazon brand.
Rom Com Reward
Of course consumers are a fickle bunch and money talks. But we hope that Amazon takes heed from Tom Hanks in the aforementioned rom com and behaves like a good neighbour. Equally, whilst the rest of the publishing industry would be wise to keep a watching brief on developments in Seattle, it might also be best to keep the voodoo dolls un-pinned and the trip wire at half-mast until that pratfall is really needed.
And did we mention wine? A decent bottle of Brunello awaits the first of our dear readers to correctly identify the name of the “mega” book shop in “’You’ve Got Mail’. Just email email@example.com.
Muse regularly works with book publishers to understand and build author and imprint brands. To find out more click here. Or if you really wish to you’re welcome to visit our physical office at 33 Great Pulteney Street, Soho, London WHA 9NP.