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University Village. Photo via U Village

Could this be the year that Amazon.com opens brick-and-mortar retail stores? Well, if the Seattle online retailer were to buck tradition and give that a shot, something that The New York Times recently speculated about, here’s the perfect location for them: the former Barnes & Noble at the University Village shopping mall.

Barnes & Noble shut down the Seattle store in December, leaving a big hole smack dab in the middle of the popular outdoor shopping center.

Now, we’ve heard nothing about whether Amazon actually plans to open any physical stores this year or in the future, let alone one at U Village. (The company is typically close-lipped about any sort of plans like this). UPDATE: Good-e-Reader reported this past weekend, citing sources close to the situation, that Amazon was kicking around a smaller-scale, boutique-style retail store in Seattle where it could sell Kindles as well as book titles from its own publishing line.

Nonetheless, if Amazon were investigating a brick-and-mortar retail strategy of any size, U Village would make a heck of a lot of sense.

Consider this:

–Amazon already collects sales tax on purchases made in Washington state, so a physical retail presence in Seattle would be easier for Jeff Bezos and crew to stomach.

Amazon could use retail stores to tout its new line of tablet computers

–Amazon has shown a tendency to test new concepts in its hometown, from the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service to the recently-launched Amazon Locker service.

–Taking over (a portion) of the retail space of a rival in Barnes & Noble could have a certain allure, especially as Amazon looks to tout its own line of tablets and e-readers. (See comment below).

–David Streitfeld at The New York Times notes that the diversity of products sold via Amazon.com would mean that any store would have to be big, and the former Barnes & Noble space does not disappoint coming in at 46,000 square feet, with about half of that currently available.

–Apple, Microsoft and Sony all have retail stores in the shopping center, and Amazon could make a big statement by planting its flag near them.

–As Amazon.com adds more of its own products — including publishing books — the company could use a retail presence as a flagship store to market items in new ways. 

I am not a betting man, but I’d wager a guess that a least a few folks in the halls of Amazon.com are kicking around these ideas. University Village general manager Susie Plummer told the Seattle P-I in December that they would love to have a book store at the shopping center.

Might Amazon be the one?

We will just have to wait and see what happens on that front.

I know of at least one person who is patiently waiting. Ten years ago, I wrote a column for the Seattle P-I in which I asked venture capitalists to offer bold predictions for the coming year. Tom Simpson of Northwest Venture Associates had this to say: “Amazon.com will open 250 retail stores in 2002.”

As we all know, that didn’t happen. But good things come to those who wait, right?

UPDATE: A spokeswoman at University Village tells us that they are not in active discussions with Amazon.com about retail space, but she said they are still very much interested in having book store at the shopping center.  Room & Board plans to open in the fall, taking over the second floor space. The street-level shops will be announced in the coming months, the spokeswoman said.

Follow-upAnother big brick-and-mortar bookseller says it won’t carry titles from Amazon.com

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