Daunt: library e-lending "disruptive" to high street

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt has warned that e-lending in libraries will put further pressure on bricks-and-mortar booksellers when the model takes off.

Speaking at a round-table discussion at the Financial Times’ London headquarters held on Wednesday (9th May) to launch the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, Daunt said library e–lending would provide tough competition to booksellers over e-book sales.

“Libraries who will soon start loaning e-books to users will be a disruptive force,” Daunt said. “If you can download a book for free and read it, why would you want to own it?”
Alan Samson, publisher of Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Helen Kogan, m.d. of Kogan Page; Tim Godfray, c.e.o. of the Booksellers Association; FT editor Lionel Barber; and Viking editorial director Joel Rickett were among the participants discussing the impact of the digital revolution on industry business models.

Daunt said: “We are facing quite an unprecedented, serious challenge. We have had it extremely easy for quite some time as retailers, with lack of attention to the basic discipline of retailing. Financially there is the opportunity to run ourselves dramatically better.”

However, he warned that bookshop numbers would inevitably continue to fall. “We have already closed shops and I think there will be further rationalisation in future, on both sides of the world,” he said.

However, when asked if he will continue to sustain Waterstones’ portfolio, Daunt responded: “I seriously hope so. I expect to do so, not that it is not without its challenges.”