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Daunt: other devices possible for Waterstones

Waterstones could sell other devices instore alongside the Kindle, as m.d. James Daunt said the arrangement with Amazon is not exclusive.

Speaking at the Hay Festival Business Breakfast panel this morning (3rd June), Daunt said: "We are not selling other devices but if there was another device that we thought was better then we would."

Speaking to The Bookseller after the event, Daunt said he would consider selling other devices "in the future", if customer demand was there. He said: "As you know, we were selling other devices when I arrived, and I kicked them out because, frankly, it was embarrassing. I mean they do sell multiple devices in places like John Lewis, there are all these Kindles lining up alongside one Kobo. For the moment, we are keeping it sensible. We will see how it evolves."

Taking questions from the floor following the panel session, which was chaired by Telegraph books editor Gaby Wood, Daunt said: "I've only just joined Waterstones, and it seemed totally astonishing to me, coming from an independent background to this big beast, that apparently they hadn’t given [e-book retailing] any thought before."

Answering a question as to why, in doing a deal with Amazon to sell the Kindle, he had "given in" to the etailer's near monopoly rather than asking the authorities to investigate it, Daunt said: "They could still investigate it. We were utterly irrelevant to the sale of digital, and we had to become relevant. My job is to choose which books to sell to our customers, and applying the same principle to digital readers . . . In terms of content, it isn't an exclusive arrangement, we are selling other digital content such as epubs. If there was another device that we thought was better than we would sell that."

Earlier in the talk, he said: “Clearly we will be selling Kindles in the autumn, which are sold by Amazon who is our deadliest foe in all other respects, hence a certain amount of disquiet among publishing colleagues and booksellers, to a much lesser degree, and the general public.” On opting with Amazon and the Kindle, Daunt said it had been a choice between other devices “which have very little traction in this country”, and developing a Waterstones’ own device, which Daunt said the company had had “a highly limited” chance of doing. He said: “Effectively we felt we had very little choice but to do this.”

“Amazon is the dominant force, it has cut a swathe and transformed our industry . . . It has a basic monopoly on digital reading and this will increase it and indeed perpetuate it and all of us have our doubts about it. In meeting our customers' needs, we felt we had very little choice but to do it.”

“Our view is that people are choosing to read digitally, our job is to sell reading and if they want to do so digitally we need to provide that to them and above all else keep bookshops relevant.”

On his biggest concern, Daunt said: "I simply have to sell enough books to pay my rent." He said selling digital books in bundles with physical editions was “nothing to do with me, the publisher chooses to sell the content by whichever means necessary”.

He said the imperative was to “remain relevant to the reader”, with anyone not achieving that to “be cut out of the industry, and will disappear.” He added, on making each Waterstones more like an independent bookshop: “I think the old model of a homogenous offering is not enough for our customer. It’s about making each Waterstones adequate for its local market.”

Also on the panel was Google head of copyright policy Simon Morrison, Nosy Crow m.d. Kate Wilson and GQ editor Dylan Jones.

Wilson, discussing the digital reading experience, said: “I have to say, I do not think I have yet seen the future of the adult fiction digital reading experience.”

Wilson said there was a “creative element and a connection element” in being in publishing today, saying: “Publishers can no longer just be a midwife to talent. That is not enough of a role for publishers. They have to earn their seat at the creative table. To be a publisher is to be a creator.”

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It would make sense to have a waterstone's device - why not go back to Sony and get your branding put on their reader?

I *LOVED* the sony reader. It was so easy to use and really pretty.

"Daunt said: "I've only just joined Waterstones, and it seemed totally astonishing to me, coming from an independent background to this big beast, that apparently they hadn’t given [e-book retailing] any thought before.""

Really?! really really????!!

do much research into the company you've joined?

see my previous comment about the Sony Reader.

It seems like the right decision to include/start with the Kindle as it's so important at the moment. The decision not to be exclusive but to have other ereaders too also seems good to me. As publishers we have also chosen to produce Kindle ebooks as this is such an important part of the market, but we're also with Kobo and will be with any others that have a market share. I think Kobo is more important than this article suggests. Until Amazon allows Kindle ebooks to be on loan in public libraries there's a gap in the market for other devices including Kobo. Kobo is also just introducing a self-publishing option for writers, while differentiating by asking publishers to apply to be retailed by them. The 'click and collect' service also sounds good to me. With sales increasing I think it's fair to give Daunt some credit for good decisions.

"Our view is that people are choosing to read digitally, our job is to sell reading and if they want to do so digitally we need to provide that to them and above all else keep bookshops relevant"

I wonder if Mr Daunt has actually held, and maybe used a Kindle? If I can search for, evaluate and buy an eBook on my Kindle without having to get out of bed let alone go to a bookshop, why on earth would I need to go to Waterstones?

I read regularly on a Kindle and I also regularly read printed books. I certainly go into Waterstones and other bookshops. People who love books love going into bookshops. Ereaders get people addicted to books even if they have lost that love of reading. I have bought far more printed books since getting my Kindle. Like most people who have a Kindle or other reader I find that I read a lot more, and I already read a lot - I'm an editor. I believe that without ereaders sales of books were rapidly declining due to other interests. The internet has been the biggest killer of book sales. I'm amazed ereaders have reawakened an interest in reading but they have and it encourages these reading addicts to get printed books too and to go into shops. Sales are up in Waterstones, which shows it can be done.

So much confused thinking. We don't like Amazon, we will stock the Kindle, or possibly any other unspecified e readers. Mr Daunt hasn't "just joined" Waterstones, he has been there sometime now and, frankly, I see no strategy except to throw millions into a refit of some of their branches. And you still can't buy a Waterstones gift voucher online......

Query, Catalina: what would you want from Daunt/do in his place?

Simple, as I say, get a strategy.

It is a strategy knowing it's business suicide not to go with Amazon and Kindle but not being exclusive and being able to sell other ereaders too while more healthy competition builds up. Criticising Amazon doesn't mean not doing business with them - that would be foolish at the moment. Getting rid of the exclusivity demanded at times by Amazon and others is a real problem, and this move away from the exclusive approach is a good one.

No, its not strategy. Its "OMG we don't have a reader for Christmas" Its "OMG our website is not up to par". The market will decide what happens to Waterstones, sadly they are bobbing along like a cork in a malestrom at the moment. But a bit of strategy would help.

What about Kobo?43ve

What about the latest news ? Sainbsburys have bought into an e reader.

Hi Catalina,

Yes it is a strategy. You clearly don't think it's a good one is all. Which is fine.

It's great news that some more competition out there but Sainsbury's haven't bought into an ereader. They've bought a stake in a site. There is no hardware for Anobii.

People think there's a panic about not having an ereader quickly, but it takes much longer to sort out the kind of deals needed with other companies than many seem to imagine. For the Nook it would take a long time to iron out all the conditions needed by such major companies (Barnes and Noble and Waterstones and I don't know if there's even another company involved in producing the Nook, but just two such giant bookshop chains would already make it complex legally). Sometimes there are three major companies involved in an ereader deal. What would be naive would be imagining this can be done fast. One of the advantages with Amazon is that they do make things easy and a deal can be struck that bit faster. Going for non exclusive deals seems like the best approach to me, and if they're not being exclusive it makes perfect sense to have the Kindle.

@ James - Kobo is good too. We've been accepted by them to have our books retailed on Kobo. Our strategy is also non exclusive. That's the best approach to create healthy competition. And if you're not tying yourself into exclusive deals it would be absurd not to have the Kindle when so many books sell on it at the moment.

It would make sense to have a waterstone's device - why not go back to Sony and get your branding put on their reader?

I *LOVED* the sony reader. It was so easy to use and really pretty.

"Daunt said: "I've only just joined Waterstones, and it seemed totally astonishing to me, coming from an independent background to this big beast, that apparently they hadn’t given [e-book retailing] any thought before.""

Really?! really really????!!

do much research into the company you've joined?

see my previous comment about the Sony Reader.

It seems like the right decision to include/start with the Kindle as it's so important at the moment. The decision not to be exclusive but to have other ereaders too also seems good to me. As publishers we have also chosen to produce Kindle ebooks as this is such an important part of the market, but we're also with Kobo and will be with any others that have a market share. I think Kobo is more important than this article suggests. Until Amazon allows Kindle ebooks to be on loan in public libraries there's a gap in the market for other devices including Kobo. Kobo is also just introducing a self-publishing option for writers, while differentiating by asking publishers to apply to be retailed by them. The 'click and collect' service also sounds good to me. With sales increasing I think it's fair to give Daunt some credit for good decisions.

"Our view is that people are choosing to read digitally, our job is to sell reading and if they want to do so digitally we need to provide that to them and above all else keep bookshops relevant"

I wonder if Mr Daunt has actually held, and maybe used a Kindle? If I can search for, evaluate and buy an eBook on my Kindle without having to get out of bed let alone go to a bookshop, why on earth would I need to go to Waterstones?

I read regularly on a Kindle and I also regularly read printed books. I certainly go into Waterstones and other bookshops. People who love books love going into bookshops. Ereaders get people addicted to books even if they have lost that love of reading. I have bought far more printed books since getting my Kindle. Like most people who have a Kindle or other reader I find that I read a lot more, and I already read a lot - I'm an editor. I believe that without ereaders sales of books were rapidly declining due to other interests. The internet has been the biggest killer of book sales. I'm amazed ereaders have reawakened an interest in reading but they have and it encourages these reading addicts to get printed books too and to go into shops. Sales are up in Waterstones, which shows it can be done.

So much confused thinking. We don't like Amazon, we will stock the Kindle, or possibly any other unspecified e readers. Mr Daunt hasn't "just joined" Waterstones, he has been there sometime now and, frankly, I see no strategy except to throw millions into a refit of some of their branches. And you still can't buy a Waterstones gift voucher online......

Query, Catalina: what would you want from Daunt/do in his place?

Simple, as I say, get a strategy.

It is a strategy knowing it's business suicide not to go with Amazon and Kindle but not being exclusive and being able to sell other ereaders too while more healthy competition builds up. Criticising Amazon doesn't mean not doing business with them - that would be foolish at the moment. Getting rid of the exclusivity demanded at times by Amazon and others is a real problem, and this move away from the exclusive approach is a good one.

No, its not strategy. Its "OMG we don't have a reader for Christmas" Its "OMG our website is not up to par". The market will decide what happens to Waterstones, sadly they are bobbing along like a cork in a malestrom at the moment. But a bit of strategy would help.

Hi Catalina,

Yes it is a strategy. You clearly don't think it's a good one is all. Which is fine.

What about Kobo?43ve

What about the latest news ? Sainbsburys have bought into an e reader.

It's great news that some more competition out there but Sainsbury's haven't bought into an ereader. They've bought a stake in a site. There is no hardware for Anobii.

People think there's a panic about not having an ereader quickly, but it takes much longer to sort out the kind of deals needed with other companies than many seem to imagine. For the Nook it would take a long time to iron out all the conditions needed by such major companies (Barnes and Noble and Waterstones and I don't know if there's even another company involved in producing the Nook, but just two such giant bookshop chains would already make it complex legally). Sometimes there are three major companies involved in an ereader deal. What would be naive would be imagining this can be done fast. One of the advantages with Amazon is that they do make things easy and a deal can be struck that bit faster. Going for non exclusive deals seems like the best approach to me, and if they're not being exclusive it makes perfect sense to have the Kindle.

@ James - Kobo is good too. We've been accepted by them to have our books retailed on Kobo. Our strategy is also non exclusive. That's the best approach to create healthy competition. And if you're not tying yourself into exclusive deals it would be absurd not to have the Kindle when so many books sell on it at the moment.