The snake has eaten its tail.
Rumor has it that Amazon.com, the company that made its name killing the storefront bookstore, plans to open 300 to 400 retail shops around the country. And what will these old school shops sell? Books.
Reuters reports that Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of mall operator General Growth Properties Inc., referred to the deal on an earnings call. “You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores,” said Mathrani.
An Amazon spokesperson told Reuters that the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation,” but the move would make sense. Amazon opened its first bookstore in Seattle last November, and while it’s about as cozy as a Best Buy phone booth, it aligns with Amazon’s plan for total market dominance. Among other recent ventures, Amazon has entered the grocery, publishing, television, web services, artisan crafts, and the direct delivery markets. Opening several hundred bookstores could be a play to build up infrastructure for rural and suburban drone deliveries.
The company’s never-ending expansion has some people asking if Amazon has too much power. “Shopping on Amazon has so ingrained itself in modern American life that it has become something close to our unthinking habit,” wrote Franklin Foer in the New Republic, “and the company has achieved a level of dominance that merits the application of a very old label: monopoly.”
But while the federal government was once in the business of breaking up monopolies, Amazon is unlikely to face punishment for violating anti-trust law. Historically, monopolies were broken up because, the thinking was, a decrease in competition was always bad for the consumer — and “bad for the consumer” meant “expensive.” E-commerce, however, is different: With prices typically lower than small, independent stores, it’s hard to argue that Amazon has been bad for the consumer — if, that is, all you care about is price. Of course, not everyone does: Last year, the group Authors United sent the Department of Justice a letter stating that even if Amazon offers lower prices to consumers, the government should also be concerned with how Amazon’s anti-competitive tactics affect society and culture.
“Never in the history of our country has a single corporation dominated a vital marketplace of information — until today,” said Authors United founder Doug Preston at an event in January.
And, if the rumors are true, that marketplace — shelves and all — could soon be coming to a mall near you.