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Amazon opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore

Alyssa Boggs, executive assistant at Amazon, works inside of Amazon Books, the company’s first brick-and-mortar store, in Seattle’s University District. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times via AP)
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Twenty years after famously upended the brick-and-mortar book business, the e-commerce giant is going to open a physical bookstore of its own.

Amazon said that on Tuesday morning it will open a store called Amazon Books in the University Village neighborhood of its corporate hometown of Seattle.

The foray by the online innovator into this most old-school style of retailing seems to be a reflection of how shopping continues to evolve in the digital era.  While the industry once thought the Web might be the death knell of brick-and-mortar retailing, many are now bullish that the two channels will work in concert, with shoppers bouncing between physical and online retailing.  And many studies find that consumers who shop online as well as in stores are the biggest spenders.

Amazon said it used customer ratings, sales data and other information to curate the selection of books in its 7,400 square-foot store.  It says the prices will be the same as those that shoppers see on its Web site.

“Amazon Books is a physical extension of,” said Jennifer Cast, Amazon’s vice president of books, in a message posted on the company’s Web site. “We’ve applied 20 years of online book-selling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.”

The company also promised that all books would be displayed face-out on shelves, so customers can easily browse them, and said that their Amazon customer ratings and reviews would be displayed alongside the books. The company will also showcase its hardware devices, including the Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet.

When asked by The Washington Post whether the company intends to open more outposts, Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass said in an e-mail, “We’ll see. We’re certainly excited about this one.”

Amazon may be the largest e-commerce retailer yet to make the leap into physical retailing, but it is hardly the first.  In recent years, Bonobos, Rent The Runway, Blue Nile and Harry’s have opened stores, hoping they can engage with customers in a different way.

Shoppers at Amazon Books will be able to buy books and walk out with them as they would at a traditional store, or they can order them online from within the store and have them shipped to their homes.

Long before Amazon was “The Everything Store,” it was an online bookstore.  Its arrival in the 1990s shook the industry, and its innovative model and fast growth helped drive big-box chain Borders out of business and has created serious headwinds for Barnes & Noble.

Amazon’s launch of a physical retail store comes even as it continues to experiment with new ways to bring more immediacy to its online offering.  The company is expanding same-day and one-hour delivery to more markets and has launched Amazon Flex, an Uber-like delivery service in which an on-demand network of drivers will ferry packages to customers.

Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.