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First Look: Amazon Books, Manhattan

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Eleven and counting. That's where Amazon Books stands with the opening of its newest outpost.

Located across from the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, the 5,200-sq.-ft. store is part bookstore and part high-tech electronics store — with a cafe thrown in for good measure. It has a contemporary look, with accent lighting and wood flooring and wood shelves and display tables. The spacious children's area is accented with carpeting and chairs for lounging. Stumptown coffee and pastries and other items are sold in the cafe, which has both table and counter seating. The cafe is set off from the rest of space with black and white tile flooring.

The new Amazon Books has about 3,700 titles available for sale. The selection is based on customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on the company's Goodreads' book review and recommendation site, and its own curators’ assessments. All books are placed with their covers face-out on the shelves, and under each book is a small card with a review and the customer rating. Most have been rated 4 stars or above.

One of the things that makes the store feel — and look — different from standard book shops is the way its books are organized. Similar to what Amazon does with its online offerings, the books are organized into a variety of sections, with titles appearing in multiple sections. For those who prefer the more conventional approach, there are the standard genre departments, including new nonfiction, cooking, young adult, travel, science fiction & fantasy, self-improvement and more.

In an interesting twist, however, the books are also displayedin such categories as "highly rated" (4.8 stars & above), and "Goodreads' most-read classics." Additional categories include "100 books to read in a lifetime," and "page turners" (books Kindle readers finished in three days or less). One large section makes recommendations based on books that the shopper has already read ("if you like, you'll love this").

But books are only part of the merchandise mix. The store also serves as a showcase for all of Amazon's tech products, from Fire television and the Alexa Smart Home system to Echo and the Kindle e-reader. The items are displayed on tables and stands that make it easy for customers to test drive — and hopefully buy — the products. Several displays are devoted to tech accessories. And there are plenty of associates hovering around to answer questions.

Amazon Books will open two more locations in 2017, at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles, and at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, Calif., giving it a total of 13 by the end of the year. The company hasn't commented on how many bookstores it plans to open in 2018.
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