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Amazon bookstores raise prices for people who don’t subscribe to Prime

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Amazon’s physical bookstores used to offer the same discounted prices to everyone. But recently, they started charging more for people who don’t subscribe to Prime.

Prime members who shop at any of Amazon’s physical bookstores (three and growing) still get the same prices advertised on Amazon’s website — often a several dollar discount. But people who aren’t subscribed to Prime now have to pay list price. GeekWire spotted the pricing change, which it says has been in place since August.

While this is a frustrating change for customers who aren’t Prime members, it isn’t by any means out of line. There are plenty of stores akin to Amazon — like Sam’s Club and CostCo — that require a membership to shop their discounted merchandise. And a more direct competitor on the bookstore front, Barnes & Noble, offers an annual membership that includes discounted books.

Bookstores are a hard business in 2016, too. While Amazon likely plans to use its stores for operational purposes as well, it’s no secret that selling books out of a physical space is a tough thing to keep afloat (thanks in large part to Amazon itself). Any bookstores neighboring Amazon’s likely won’t mind this change either — it’s Amazon’s low prices that have been such a threat to them, after all. This change levels the playing field a bit, at least for people who aren’t Prime members.

For Prime members, the change adds another small perk to subscribing to Amazon. While it only has a few stores so far, Amazon is steadily expanding into major cities, with plans for Chicago and New York. It’s already opened Seattle, San Diego, and Portland, with a Boston location almost complete. These won’t be helpful for the vast majority of Amazon’s subscribers, but the perk could become meaningful if the number of locations continues to climb.