amazon books nyc 34th stThe books in Amazon Books feel like window-dressing for Amazon’s larger goal: to get consumers to buy into its network of hardware and services.Mark Matousek / Business Insider

  • Amazon is growing at an incredible rate, while Barnes & Noble has been struggling for years.
  • While Barnes & Noble’s stores are more inviting than Amazon Books’, the latter’s minimalist philosophy is probably closer to the future of chain retail.
  • That model isn’t ideal for bookstores, which are best when they can offer specialized curation and enough inventory to encourage random discoveries.

It’s hard to think of two businesses with more different trajectories than Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The former is one of the most valuable companies in the world, while the latter has struggled for years.

It’s also strange to imagine the two as direct competitors. Before opening its first Amazon Books store in 2015, Amazon didn’t have a physical retail footprint. Now, it has over a dozen bookstores that represent yet another obstacle to Barnes & Noble’s attempts to turn around its fortunes.

I visited one of each brand’s stores in New York City and discovered a depressing truth about the future of retail.

Here’s what I saw: