UPDATE: Amazon Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore Expansion Confirmed
UPDATE 5/18/2015: CEO Jeff Bezos has finally confirmed that Amazon is expanding its bookstore division Amazon Books, reported The Seattle Times. He shared this news at a shareholder meeting on May 17th. While not providing exact details, Bezos said, "We’re definitely going to open additional stores. How many? We don’t know yet. In these early days it's all about learning, rather than trying to earn a lot of revenue." Read the complete timeline of Amazon bookstore news below.
Bouree Lam of The Atlantic aptly described a February 2nd earnings call with General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani as “the call that launched a hundred articles.” In that call, the mall developer Mathrani revealed that Amazon is planning to launch 300 to 400 physical bookstores, massively expanding on the single physical bookstore it currently operates in Seattle. *Cue the Internet exploding*
Several additional reports have come to light regarding the bookstore expansion since Mathrani’s comments -- none of which Amazon spokespeople have confirmed or denied. [Edit: Amazon has confirmed it's opening a second bookstore in San Diego and confirmed a plan to open "additional stores".] To help our readers understand this still developing situation, and its impact on the book industry, Book Business has created a timeline of events which links to some of the most useful stories covering this news.
This page will be updated as new information emerges.
Tuesday February 2nd
- Sandeep Mathrani reveals in an earnings call that Amazon is planning “to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores.”
- The New York Times cites an anonymous Amazon source who stated that the company’s “plans for physical stores are modest,” especially when compared to Mathrani’s claim of hundreds of stores.
Wednesday February 3rd
- Half Price Books EVP reacts to the news that Amazon is opening more physical bookstores, saying that it’s a “vindication for Half Price Books that Amazon wants in on the brick-and-mortar scene.” Half Price Books is the third largest bookstore chain in the U.S.
- CNBC reports that Sandeep Mathrani released a statement saying his comments “don’t reflect Amazon’s plans.”
- Publishers Weekly writes that Amazon is looking to fill five bookseller positions in the San Diego and La Jolla area. Those positions include assistant store manager, bookseller, books lead, store manager, and device lead. When PW asked an Amazon spokesperson if this means Amazon is opening additional stores, the spokesperson reportedly said “the only publicly announced store is the one operating in Seattle.”
- Re/code reports that it has confirmed, through anonymous sources, Amazon’s plans to open physical bookstores and other types of retail stores in the near future. Re/code also reports that Steve Kessel, a long-time Amazon executive who helped launch the first Kindle, is leading this initiative. Amazon did not reply to requests to comment.
Thursday February 4th
- The Seattle Times reveals additional job postings on Amazon’s website for the Amazon Books division, the group responsible for the launch of Amazon’s Seattle bookstore. Positions include a data engineer, financial analyst, and curators for literary fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. All job listings make specific reference to a physical bookstore. According to The Seattle Times, these jobs indicate that Amazon is indeed expanding its physical bookstores or “Amazon’s sole bookstore will have the most overqualified staff ever seen in a small bookshop.”
Friday February 12th
- CEO of Powell's Books says Amazon's potential store expansion confirms the unique value that bookstores provide. "There is something special that occurs at a physical bookstore that is not replicable on the internet," CEO Miriam Sontz told CNBC. "People have tried, and it's just not the same experience. It doesn't have the same serendipity. It doesn't have the same sense of community."
Saturday March 5th
- Rumors of a second Amazon Books have been confirmed. Signage posted outside the new store location at Westfield UTC mall in San Diego indicates that the bookstore will open this summer. Amazon spokesperson Sarah Gelman said, “We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to the University Towne Center Mall in San Diego and we are currently hiring store managers and associates. Stay tuned for additional details down the road.”
Tuesday May 17th
- Amazon held its annual shareholder meeting in Seattle where Bezos confirmed Amazon’s expansion of its brick-and-mortar bookstore division, but he remained vague on the number of stores planned. “It’s an experiment,” he said. “We’re definitely going to open additional stores. How many? We don’t know yet. In these early days it's all about learning, rather than trying to earn a lot of revenue." Publishers Weekly writes that rumors circulating at BookExpo America suggest San Francisco -- a past location for Amazon pop-up stores -- may be the next home for Amazon Books.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.