I'm getting forwarded this Forbes story left and right today. It's built on a rumor from February of this year that Amazon.com is planning a brick-and-mortar retail space. Please bear in mind that what follows is just wild speculation, and not based on any new information:
This is likely the birth of a major new retail bookstore chain, a Waldenbooks for the 21st Century. Sure, they’ll test and tweak at that first store. But get ready for the rollout...Someone at Amazon has awoken to the realization that the company is sitting on a gold mine of unique books and ebooks. Put that together with its own reader device, and you’ve got the setting for a cross between Barnes & Noble and the Apple store — in other words, a bookstore my 10-year-old son is going to want to visit. And buy things at, and read them, on his Kindle.
First up: I'm not sure anybody's clamoring for a Waldenbooks for the 21st century. Waldenbooks was an exceptionally late-20th-century kind of idea. And if Amazon is planning a retail store, it's sure as hell not going to be a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore. They publish a lot of books now, but they don't publish nearly enough to stock their own traditional bookstore with anything resembling the comprehensiveness that people expect from Amazon. If there is an Amazon store in the works, it's probably going to be something more like a boutique Best Buy, a cross between a museum and a mail-order business, and I don't think it would be entirely book-centric.
Amazon isn't especially good at coming up with new ideas—the Kindle came about because Jeff Bezos got scared by the Sony Reader and hired a team to perfect the idea of the e-reader; the Kindle Fire doesn't bring anything new to the table other than "cheap iPad"—but they are especially good at stripping what they perceive to be bullshit out of an idea. I think the culture at Amazon believes that bookstores are mostly bullshit; this store has to be a lot more ambitious than that.