Is Amazon Opening Hundreds of New Bookstores?

Does Amazon have a major brick-and-mortar bookstore expansion in the works? That’s the latest news from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which means either the death of the book industry or its salvation, depending on which think-piece you’re inclined to read/write over the next, say, 24 hours, until this whole thing cools off, and we realize we know almost nothing about the retail giant’s true intentions.

In the meantime, here’s what we do know:

Yesterday, the WSJ reported that the chief executive of the mall operator General Growth Properties Inc., Sandeep Mathrani, was answering questions on an investor call when he casually mentioned that Amazon was planning to open somewhere in the area of 400 new bookstores. 4–0–0. That’s 399 more than Amazon currently operates. (Its first, Amazon Books, in University Village, Seattle, opened last year.)

Okay, we know what you’re thinking about the WSJ’s source. It’s not exactly Bezos. And look, we’re with you, if we believed everything a mall president ever told us, we’d all be walking around in polarized shades from the Sunglass Hut and mouths full of Cinnabon, but the truth is, this Mathrani character might very well have the straight dope. After all, if Amazon were looking to make a brick-and-mortar push, wouldn’t the malls have to be among the first to know? Location, location, location…is a thing retail people used to say, before Amazon crushed them all.

Luckily, we’ve also got The Gray Lady on the case. Following the WSJ story, Nick Wingfield, the NYT man-in-the-know on all things tech & moneyed, contacted “a person briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity” and reported that Amazon does plan to expand its bookstore business, but the plans are more “modest” than the 400 number being thrown around on investor calls. (Seriously, though, have you ever listened to one of those calls? They’re not always the most reliable sources of purely accurate information. A legal doctrine had to be invented — puffery — so that businesses could push their snake oil on these things. Not that we’re saying this Amazon stuff is snake oil. It sounds like bona fide oil, in fact. Texas Tea.)

And that’s where Electric Lit comes in. Following up on the WSJNYT reporting, we thought, if General Growth Properties, Inc. is giving its investors the skinny, certainly Amazon is doing the same. So we perused the company’s latest financial reports and guess what we found? Basically, nothing of interest. Except that Amazon has some impressive wind farm operations in Virginia and North Carolina. Were you aware of that? There’s your real think piece, aspiring essayists: “Does Amazon Own The Wind?”

For now, that’s about all there is.

For God’s sake, go buy a book from your local independent bookseller.

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