Ever since Amazon announced its plans to build a 20-story skyscraper in New York City, book lovers have been watching anxiously, wondering what impact the new space might have on the bookstores that line the streets of Manhattan. The debate has been mostly academic since the decision to move to Queens was announced, but according to a new survey by the online merchant, the sooner the building is built, the more Amazon will put books front and center.
Although Amazon’s eventual arrival is unlikely to lead to the demise of shops like Barnes & Noble or Washington’s third-place bookseller Politics & Prose, it could be a crippling blow to some small retail enterprises that have been operating in Manhattan since before building permit applications were even drafted.
More than six in 10 respondents to the survey said they do not think new bookstores will grow in number in the near future. Instead, they expect Amazon to take over in the months and years ahead. The longer the delay between the start of construction and the unveiling of the tower, the fewer people believe bookstores will actually continue to thrive in Manhattan.
Only about a quarter of respondents believe Amazon will take over the top spot, and 32 percent think that small booksellers will continue to survive as a kind of independent music and film download company — just as Netflix encroaches on Comcast’s territory and the majority of music listeners remain loyal to Apple and Amazon.
About 35 percent of survey respondents say they expect Amazon to build its new towers in Manhattan or Brooklyn and turn those neighborhoods into giant book vending machines — and only 12 percent said they expect Amazon to build in the outer boroughs. A quarter said Amazon will build in other large cities such as Boston, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, but only about a sixth expect the chain to be the biggest bookstore in those areas.
About one in five said Amazon will open hundreds of new bookstores (but only in Washington, D.C., or beyond the greater D.C. area).