Putting a sharper point on the Works with Alexa mantra, shelves in the new Austin, Texas, Amazon Books store go well beyond books to offer a wide variety of third-party connected home products compatible with the Amazon Alexa digital assistant, making it easier than ever for homeowners to outfit their domiciles with the latest in voice-activated tech. And, as one would expect, the requisite Amazon Echo speakers that process those voice commands are available nearby for instant purchase, in their Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Spot incarnations.
Getting top-bookshelf billing in the store’s Works with Alexa section was the Philips Hue line of connected LED lamps and products, including the Hue Bridge that is required to make a connection with the universe of Alexa skills. Taking up half of the second shelf was the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Protect Smoke + CO Alarm, and Nest Indoor and Outdoor cams, while several TP-Link lighting products and smart door locks from August Home occupied the remainder of the shelf.
Interestingly, only a single product from smart video doorbell pioneer Ring was visible in this store—a company recently gobbled up by the acquisition machine of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 was situated on the third shelf from the top, next to Belkin WeMo accessories, ecobee smart thermostats, and a Rachio sprinkler controller.
Multi-room audio speaker maker Sonos was also well represented in the Austin store, with a section dedicated to the Sonos One speaker—a high-fidelity speaker with an Amazon Alexa voice processing chip built into its housing. So, having a single Sonos One speaker in the home obviates the need for a separate Amazon Echo speaker.
Certainly, it was easy to find the Amazon Fire TV stick in standard and 4K Ultra HD variations. But not so easy to find in this store was the price of the technology products. Most shelf tags and placards offer nothing more than descriptions and barcodes, so ideally one has a smartphone equipped with the Amazon mobile app—with its integrated scanner—to glean the standard Amazon price or any relevant members-only Amazon Prime pricing. Barcode scanner kiosks located around the store can also be used to scan any item to get its price.
And yes, for shoppers more interested in catching up on their reading instead of keeping up with smart home trends, this brick-and-mortar store does offer a broad selection of physical and digital books for instant sale. The carefully-curated selection of printed books on display have their covers facing outward, and most do have their prices on the back. For Amazon Prime members, they will get the same price in-store as they get online. The full line of Amazon Kindle ebook readers are also on display, front and center.
Located in Austin’s burgeoning Domain Northside shopping center, this first Amazon Books store in Texas measures 4,800 square feet and is literally a few hundred feet down the street from a newly-opened Apple Store. And just around the corner: A large Whole Foods Market grocery store, another of Amazon’s acquisitions.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.