Daunt: Waterstones customers 'want Kindle'

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt has said the deal with Amazon to sell its e-reading devices and Kindle e-books through Waterstones' shops was a "no brainer", admitting that Amazon sold the e-reader that Waterstones' customers wanted to use, and that Waterstones had left it too late to develop its own device.

"We asked ourselves, 'what do our customers want?'; the answer was the Kindle. Once we'd done that this was self-evidently the best deal." Daunt said the two businesses had started talking only "relatively recently", admitting that he had looked at other options but rejected them. "Ultimately, when we thought about it, we had to give the customers what they wanted. And the best device on the market is the Kindle."

Daunt refused to reveal the terms of the deal, but said the chain would "get a cut" when a customer bought an e-book off the Kindle device when using the Wi-Fi in Waterstones' shops. Waterstones will roll out Wi-Fi in its stores, with the plan to bring in the first devices by the autumn.

Daunt declined to say if Amazon was putting money up-front as part of the deal, but said the arrangement would "facilitate' the investment in IT within stores, the roll-out of coffee shops, and staff training. Daunt said: "The future of Waterstones is in its physical stores, selling physical books, but doing other things around it, such as coffee and digital readers. This is much more about making Waterstones’ a better physical business, enticing those Kindle customers back into bookshops, and improving the Kindle browsing  experience for them. In terms of what we can offer, we’ll only be limited by our imagination.”

Customers would buy the e-books from Amazon direct, but from within the Waterstones' environment, Daunt said. Publishers will continue to deal with Amazon and Waterstones separately.

Daunt said the deal with Amazon was "non-exclusive", and that Waterstones would continue to operate its own e-book platform separate to any Kindle online presence, but said the company would look at adding a link from the Waterstones.com site to the Kindle store. Daunt said he remained "committed" to the Waterstones.com e-book business, and would continue to work with publishers to develop it.

Daunt said the business had left it "too late" to invest in its own device saying it was "something my predecessors would have had to do", and admitted it did not have the resources to go it alone. "We might have got a product out by next Christmas, not this Christmas, and that would have been too late. We'd have been out of this market, and that just wasn't acceptable."