Another sign of the traditional book's resurgence: Amazon plans to open "brick and mortar" bookstores across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon's Internet book business was long seen as causing the decline of independent bookstores, as well as bringing the downfall of the Borders chain and struggles at Barnes & Noble.
With its Kindle reader, Jeff Bezos' company also emerged as book publishers' main e-book rival. Amazon somehow came out ahead in a lawsuit that alleged that Apple and the book publishers had colluded in e-book pricing. The dazzling prospects of e-books led B&N to enter the field with its Nook readers, which pretty much fizzled (although I'm still enjoying my now nearly decade-old Nook).
The latest trends indicate that traditional books and bookstores have made a comeback. Writer Ann Patchett is a leading champion of independent bookstores after opening the thriving Parnassus Books in Nashville. Around the country, independents appear in good shape, although a few longtime businesses have closed.
Now Parnassus and other independents will battle Amazon on their home turfs. Amazon is already operating a test bookstore in its hometown of Seattle, and apparently looks to open up to 400 stores across the country, the Journal reported. Along with books, the Amazon stores would sell Kindles and other Amazon products.
The bookstore plan follows another Bezos investment in traditional media. The Amazon founder, seen as one of the tech masters vying for control of the economy, purchased The Washington Post several years ago. Along with shoring up the Post's print product, Bezos strengthened the paper's online operation and sought ways to use its circulation lists for delivery of Amazon products.
Bezos has long been known for plowing profits back into Amazon's operations. Wall Street investors are growing impatient with that strategy; last week disappointing profit results led to a big decline in stock prices.
The final shape of Amazon's brick and mortar plans will be interesting. Will Bezos seek to compete with Apple and Microsoft stores, offering laptops and smart phones as well as books and electronic readers? Will the stores function as the new Sears, a place where customers can pick up online orders? Will stores deliver products to homes and offices? Will they become the 21st century department store, library, doctor's office and so on? Or, will their experience resemble that of an old-fashioned bookstore?