A few months ago, Amazon was the celebrity of Washington.
One day, you could find the world’s largest online retailer sitting inside a bookstore, making headlines for its restaurant ideas and investments in everything from data analytics to cars.
A year later, the eponymous, 75,000-square-foot bookstore has been replaced by a Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and plans to start selling Keurig K-Cups on site. On the other side of 14th Street, Whole Foods replaced Books-A-Million. Starbucks moved into the area’s vacant F&M space, and Amazon, frustrated by the inconvenience of its new headquarters in D.C., is reportedly on the hunt for a new shop downtown.
B&N received aggressive buyout offers, too. But the brick-and-mortar chain still remains in business, although fewer than 10 branches remain open. Barnes & Noble, the largest retailer of books, announced Thursday that it is partnering with Microsoft to make cloud digital editions of 4.2 million titles, covering everything from hardcover classics to cookbooks. But so far, there’s no word on whether the company is talking to Amazon about a shared bookstore in Washington. And despite Amazon’s work with local retailers, this is one DC—and D.C. suburbs—where the e-commerce giant’s net worth dwarfs anyone else’s.
This Washington Post article from early 2017 recounts the buildout of Amazon’s new books operation:
At Amazon’s futuristic Silver Spring headquarters, Amazon Books is largely a collection of tables packed with Amazon Kindle tablets, Kindles, Amazon Echo smart speakers, and Amazon Fire TV boxes, which are positioned, for maximum customer touch, right on the dining table where visitors are seated. The entire space is neatly arranged, from floor to ceiling. The room is audibly turned on by the sound of employees laughing and laughing together. Amazon Books, the company says, is not just a bookstore—it’s a “store that sells books.”
Although all outlets of the new concept were slated to open before the end of 2017, it took until the end of November for the first store to open at Pike Place Market in Seattle, for a launch in the middle of that city’s Black Friday. The books, which cost $10 to $18, are selected by Amazon employees. Online shoppers can access the store, but the sales staff does not handle customer service and customer payments.
“Can you imagine feeling pain the next time you go to Safeway and have to wait three hours for a milk carton? Or you’re at the Rite Aid on your way home from work and there’s a long line, just waiting to go through? Amazon Books on the opposite side of Pike Place Market is here to help,” then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a news release announcing the opening.
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