Amazon Books feels so refreshing and remains so popular because it makes the physical world conform to its digital origins

Cherie HuHaving already turned media and retail upside down, Amazon and other Internet businesses are preparing to turn those worlds inside out as well.

Over more than two decades, Amazon has shaped the customer shopping experience – both on the Web and on the street: as an online-only e-retailer opened since 1994; then beginning in 2015, as a brick-and-mortar concern operating Amazon Books and since last summer, Whole Foods, the national supermarket chain.

On a Christmas Eve visit to a crowded Amazon Books in Manhattan, Cherie Hu realized that Amazon had flipped the table on the analog environment of traditional bookselling.

“From the outside, it looks like any other physical bookstore. On the inside, most of the shelves and book labels are presented in a manner that only Amazon can pull off with authority, drawing inspiration from its online user experience—and from its large swaths of consumer data,” she recalls.

Hu identifies the new shopping experience as an “ingenious reversal of skeuomorphism, or the act of making digital objects represent their real-world counterparts… Amazon Books feels so refreshing and remains so popular because it turns skeuomorphism on its head: it makes the physical world conform to its digital origins, rather than the other way around,” she explains.

Expect to see – and hear – more of such about-face skeuomorphism, Hu predicts. For example, “Spotify’s power will come from curating live events around its flagship playlists, which is already happening. Last year, the streaming service successfully executed a six-city RapCaviar Live tour and produced its first-ever Who We Be concert in London… We can only expect Spotify’s live events arm to expand in 2018. I don’t think it’s too crazy to claim that the concert of the future will just be a live playlist.”

An award-winning, entrepreneurial music writer and analyst who focuses on digital and tech trends and emerging markets, Cherie Hu currently works as a tech columnist for Billboard and a music columnist for Forbes. In September 2017, at age 21, she received the Reeperbahn Festival’s inaugural award for Music Business Journalist of the Year.

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