Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An Amazon Superstore in Every High Street - Called Waterstones

On January 30 I blogged about the possibility of "An Amazon Superstore in Every High Street", (I reproduce the text below). I can now see how it will happen, although it looks as if their stores are going to be called Waterstones, at least for a while.

"An Amazon Superstore on Every High Street": (first blogged 30/1/12)

Despite the fact that millions of us love to avail ourselves of its extremely efficient services, Amazon has taken over from the supermarkets as the “hate figure” of the publishing and bookselling world, apparently responsible for the genteel but inevitable decline of the traditional book shop that we all profess to love but not enough of us support.

Maybe Amazon should make themselves more accessible and cuddly by expanding into bricks and mortar themselves. (I know there has been talk of them creating “Argos-style” pick up points for their products, but I am suggesting something with a little more vision).

If they want to become more loved by the public – and if they are sitting on piles of cash which I assume they are or so many people wouldn’t hate them as much as they do - why not open Amazon stores that are as cool and beautiful as the Apple Stores?

There could be authors talking from big screens or available via headphones like in the record shops some of us remember so fondly. There could be live talks going on by anyone from Jonathan Franzen to Dan Brown if the “footfall” was large enough to attract them. There could be coffee houses that Samuel Johnson would have been happy to hang out in, and reading areas where new models of Kindles can be tried out and newspapers read like in the public libraries we all want to save, (and in the more up-market coffee shops of today where book group denizens already meet and chat). There could be editors, designers and printers available to turn e-books into beautifully printed and bound limited editions.

The underlying elephant in the room of publishing and traditional bookselling is that there simply isn’t enough money in the business to make it viable and buzzy enough to attract the crowds, but is that true now that people buy kindles and iPads and download at the press of a button?

We need to re-invigorate the nation’s town centres and high streets and if Amazon are the people with the money should we not be looking to them to fill the empty spaces with imagination and flair? If they are moving into traditional publishing, why shouldn’t they move into traditional bookselling as well – only with some 21st century style?

Many will hate the idea of course because it is potentially brash and vulgar and might even prove popular with the sort of people who do not usually grace the older style of bookshops – but aren’t they exactly the people most authors want to reach? If the concept is fantastically successful then of course that will lead to Amazon being even more all-powerful and rich – but who else in the words business is rich enough to take the chance of the whole thing being an absolute disaster?

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