SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Online retail giant Amazon opened its first Bay Area bookstore today at Santana Row to much fanfare.
"It's great," says Willie Davis, San Jose resident. "It's really neat having real physical books back."
Not that physical books ever went away, but many say it's been getting increasingly harder to find a bookstore close to one's home in recent years. Borders Books, which previously had a storefront at Santana Row, closed in 2011, as part of a company-wide liquidation.
Amazon's San Jose location is its second in California. Company officials are promising a new kind of shopping experience.
"We are obviously an extension of Amazon.com," said Jennifer Cast, Amazon Books vice president. "We have a lot of information about what customers read, and how they read, and why they read, and we wanted to bring that into a physical environment."
The company carries more than 3,500 titles inside the store. All books are forward-facing and come with space right underneath for a card that displays ratings and/or reviews about the item. Nearly every item in the store has an overall rating of at least four stars or better (out of 5) on Amazon's website.
Local industry experts such as Robert Chapman Wood, D.B.A, a business professor at San Jose State University, say Amazon has a logistics system that nobody else in the world can match.
"They can leverage that by delivering what's exactly right in a store," says Wood. "But it's early, we don't know if they'll succeed or not."
Amazon is also offering demos of its electronic devices, including the Echo smart speaker and the Kindle e-reader, among others.
"What we've heard since the Kindle was launched is that people wanted an opportunity to come in, test drive our devices and also be able to ask questions and learn about it from an expert," says Cast.
For now, some local booksellers aren't too worried about the added competition.
Recycle Bookstore, which has locations in San Jose and Campbell, has been in business in the South Bay for more than fifty years. Eric Johnson, company owner, says customers can choose from than 150,000 titles in-store, compared to Amazon's 3,500 at the new Santana Row shop.
"They come in to explore worlds they haven't encountered before," says Johnson. "When they're going into an Amazon retail space, they're exploring worlds that have already been well-trodden and familiar."
Regardless of where customers decide to eventually buy their books, some say today's Amazon opening is somewhat of a throwback to simpler times.
"I'm more prone to purchase a book from a physical bookstore," says Sandra Hayes, San Jose resident. "I can pick it up, flip through it, think about it a little bit, and make a decision."
Amazon plans to open its second Bay Area location at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek by the end of the year.