German Booksellers

Squaring Up to Amazon

new seattle store source Bloomberg
Amazon's tries its hand at classic book selling in Seattle.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germans continue to buy books, but booksellers have to be inventive or find niches to survive death by the Internet.

  • Facts


    • Last year alone, the German book trade lost 40,000 square meters of sales space and closed some 150 stores.
    • The Hugendubel on the Marienplatz in Munich was Germany’s first department store for books and at one point the largest bookselling establishment in Europe.
    • The Augsburg-based Weltbild Group intends to open 60 new stores, while Hugendubel plans to take over all the Karstadt bookstores, and Osiander will soon grow to 37 stores.
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For a glimpse into the future, Nina Hugendubel crossed the Atlantic on a trip from Munich to experience a new kind of bookstore in Seattle.

Ms. Hugendubel is a member of the Hugendubel bookselling dynasty, one of the major book retailers in Germany. What she found was another bad omen for the ailing book trade — the first brick-and-mortar store run by Amazon, the Internet giant that first shook up bookselling and then went on to send shockwaves through the rest of retail.

The store opened last fall, but its red brick facade, parquet floors and dark bookcases convey a feeling of continuity and tradition.

“It makes sense from the customer’s point of view,” admitted Ms. Hugendubel. “It’s an attractive bookstore.”

Behind the scenes, however, the store is far from traditional. Publications on store shelves aren’t selected by booksellers, for instance, but according to the purchasing and browsing histories of millions of Amazon’s customers.

Basically, the store is a walk-in customer recommendation — and in this way, Amazon is reversing an old principle.

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