Let's Go to the Mall: Amazon Books

Jason Keil
The front of the Amazon Books store in Scottsdale.
'Tis the season for shopping.

Despite your best efforts to shop local, you're eventually going to find yourself braving the crowds at the mall. In this series, we'll take a look at some of the places in these palaces of consumerism where you can find a little respite from the insanity.

Our first stop is Amazon Books, at Scottsdale Quarter, 15059 Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.

There's a heavy feeling that washes over you when you walk inside Amazon's brick and mortar store.

It's guilt.

The online giant has been blamed for the slow demise of the bookstore, including all the Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, and Borders locations that filled shopping plazas for decades, or the small businesses that shuttered thanks to the popularity of Kindle e-readers.

The company built its first physical bookstore in Seattle in 2015, and in November 2019 the Scottsdale store brought the concept to Arizona. It feels a little ironic that a physical location of Jeff Bezos' creation is across the street from a former Barnes and Noble location at Kierland Commons.
click to enlarge Browse the bestsellers at Amazon Books. - JASON KEIL
Browse the bestsellers at Amazon Books.
Jason Keil

When you walk in, the main product display looks like a live rendering of the website's homepage. All the popular books and electronics are arranged at eye level. Move a little closer, and you'll see an electronic price display that tells you how much the items are if you're an Amazon Prime member as well as product reviews from Amazon users. Of course, the main difference between this store and the online shopping experience is that you're able to pick up and read the books and magazines inside the store.

Getting lost in a book will take your mind off the cost of those Lululemon yoga pants that you purchased before you wandered in, but don't expect that feeling to last for long. If one of the customer service specialists who work inside the store doesn't interrupt you first, the ache you feel from being on your feet will. There are no chairs for you to sit back and relax.

The store is designed to get what you need and get out as soon as you can. Unlike other bookstores, Amazon Books' inventory of children's selections is piled high so your spawn cannot reach them. Don't expect to hold your next book club meeting at the store, either. The only person you're going to get into a lengthy discussion with is the overeager salesperson who's going to ask if you want an avocado slicer to go with your copy of Antoni in the Kitchen.

If you can avoid the hired help, then the store has its charms. You can browse some works by Scottsdale authors or book recommendations from celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Trevor Noah. The magazine collection is a little more diverse than your typical supermarket newsstand, and it is admittedly convenient to grab that LEGO set your nephew has been asking for while getting Jenna Bush's next book club selection.
click to enlarge How can your kids read if they can't reach the books? - JASON KEIL
How can your kids read if they can't reach the books?
Jason Keil

Should you find what you're looking for, checkout is a snap if you have the Amazon app on your phone. The cashier scans a QR code, and the credit card you use to order baby wipes will be charged for your purchase. But just like purchasing something on Amazon's website, expect to be told that you qualify for 30 free days of the company's music service or some other upcharge.

If you're looking for a quick escape after an exhausting afternoon at Restoration Hardware, then Amazon Books is your oasis. Since it has no interest in building a community of customers, it's (hopefully) not going to kill off your favorite bookstore, either. Just browse through that Elton John bio, pick up a John Grisham bestseller, and never come back.