Amazon Reportedly Planning Some 400 Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

The plans were revealed by the CEO of a shopping mall company on Feb. 2. Amazon opened a single bookstore in Seattle last fall.

Amazon, bookstores, brick-and-mortar commerce, drones, ecommerce, Amazon stores, online sales

Amazon could be planning to open 300 to 400 brick-and-mortar bookstores across the United States, according to the CEO of a shopping mall company who mentioned the possibility during an earnings call with analysts on Feb. 2.

Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties, was asked about mall traffic during the call and said he had heard that Amazon was planning the store openings, according to a Feb. 2 story by The Wall Street Journal. Last November, Amazon opened an experimental brick-and-mortar store in Seattle.

"You've got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400," Mathrani said during the analyst call, The Journal reported.

An Amazon spokeswoman told eWEEK in an email reply that the company does not comment on rumors and speculation.

Amazon's bookstore in Seattle was the company's first brick-and-mortar location, the paper reported.

Mathrani "did not say how he heard about Amazon's plans," and a spokesman for the mall company declined to comment further, according to a Feb. 2 story by The New York Times. An anonymous source said that Amazon's plans for physical stores are more modest than those reported by The Journal, according to The Times story.

"Even if Amazon is not planning to go nationwide with its stores anytime soon, any expansion of its brick-and-mortar presence is likely to send shivers down the spines of other booksellers," The Times reported. "Amazon's success as an online retailer of physical and electronic books has already devastated chains like Borders and seriously wounded Barnes & Noble."

Amazon has frequently experimented with new ways of getting its products into the hands of consumers.

In January, the company announced the expansion of its same-day college order pickup service to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this spring. The service, which is being called Amazon@Penn, will feature a pickup point where customers will be able to stop in to get their orders from some 2 million items that can be directly shipped to the location, according to a recent eWEEK story. Customers will be able to track the orders on their mobile devices for self-service pickups.

Since 2015, Amazon has already set up similar college campus package pickup points at Purdue University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Cincinnati and for students of colleges in Isla Vista, Calif., but this is the first such program at an Ivy League school, according to the company. Two more planned facilities are also scheduled to open in 2016 at the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Berkeley.

The Amazon college pickup points can also be used by customers to return items to Amazon. The latest facility will be the first Amazon pickup location that will feature communal work spaces with interactive media pods where students can connect their laptops and mobile devices to TV monitors for presentations, brainstorming, studying and collaborating, according to Amazon.

The Amazon Student shipping program provides free two-day shipping on millions of items, along with special offers and promotions, for $49 a year after a six-month free trial, to college and university students. The Amazon Prime service costs $99 a year and provides free two-day shipping for Amazon customers on thousands of items. Both services also include free access to thousands of movies, television episodes through Prime Video and unlimited ad-free music streaming through Amazon Prime Music.

In November, Amazon unveiled its latest drone prototype aircraft for its still-in-development Prime Air package delivery system, this time with a model that takes off and lands vertically but flies on a horizontal path to its destination. The company showed off its latest drone design in a 2-minute, 17-second video it posted on its Website, highlighting a smooth vertical takeoff, a flight to drop off a package of soccer shoes to a consumer and then a vertical landing at the shopper's home. The video showed the package being released from an interior storage compartment in its fuselage and then being left behind as the drone took off vertically to return to Amazon's distribution center.

The drone design is a flat-looking flying machine with a triple rudder tail and three landing wheels. Its engine is mounted at the rear in the center of the vertical rudders.

Amazon's drone program is aimed at providing package deliveries of less than 5 pounds to consumers in less than 30 minutes in select locations. The drones will fly under 400 feet in altitude, have "sense and avoid" capabilities to stay away from aircraft and other obstacles, and be able to be operated up to distances of 10 miles or more, according to Amazon.

Amazon has been looking at drone deliveries as a way of offering faster service to customers while also saving money, compared with the more costly human-based delivery systems.