Amazon Books' Algorithms in (In)Action

(image via  trendhunter )

(image via trendhunter)

Our family's current home is less than a mile from the U Village shopping complex, and, because it is home to a playground, a toy store and other time-consuming distractions, my son & I waddle over at least once a week. It's also home to Amazon's brick-and-mortar bookstore, Amazon Books. As a former bookseller, I've been curious about this store since the rumors of its existence began in late 2015. My son and I were there on opening day. It is unlike any bookstore - which is not to say it is good. I'm inclined to say that it's not. Here's an example. Recently, we visited the store. My son, as usual, runs straight for his favorite books - on this day, he was on the hunt for The Art of Lego Scale Modeling, and he knew exactly where to go. Except this time it wasn't there. Every Tuesday Amazon Books changes the inventory based on customer data - some new titles make the cut, some old ones don't. My son's confusion as he explored the shelves was an illustration of something I haven't been able to articulate about this retail model - that it is strangely ephemeral and coldly data-driven, and that the store itself feels like a piece of code that stumbled into the physical world, like an inverse Tron. The jury is still out - and we'll see what happens with the new stores - but I'm fairly certain how I'd vote.