Company job ads now say that "our goal is to combine the best of online book shopping (frictionless checkout, Prime benefits) with the offline experience of browsing, exploring, and discovering great books in a physical bookstore."
In a November interview, Amazon ceo Jeff Bezos explained to a Fast Company Design reporter who apparently has never been to local independent bookstore: "I've been asked for 20 years, 'Will you guys ever open physical stores? And I've answered pretty much the same way the whole time, which is that we will if we have a differentiated idea. You know it can't be a me-too offering, because the physical world is so well-served already." More notable is Bezos saying, "I spend time on it [the stores] because it's very interesting."
This gushing piece is full of unintended humor that may be lost on people outside the business, as it finds Amazon Books "an ingenious refinement of the bookstore idea." It turns out through rigorous testing, Amazon found that customers are more attracted to face-out books than spine-out titles. They draw on their rich data trove to put a "placard" below each book (e.g. a shelf-talker) and have invented the local bestseller ("there's even a small section dedicated to popular picks within the local community").
They call it simply "quirky" that the Books stores shifted their model early on to charge list price for most titles unless you are a Prime member -- whereas if a competitor pursued that strategy, the supposedly customer-centric Bezos would tell you that customers never say "I wish I could buy books at a hidden discount only after paying a membership fee."