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Hely Hutchinson defends Waterstone's
01.01.70 | Catherine Neilan
Tim Hely Hutchinson has defended Waterstone's in a letter to the Guardian, following an article attacking the book chain that appeared in the paper last week.
The Hachette UK chief executive said journalist Stuart Jeffries had failed to acknowledge "many good things the "new" Waterstone's has to offer" in his piece, entitled "How Waterstone's killed bookselling".
Hely Hutchinson stressed the 300 branches were "staffed by people with a passion for their trade and carrying a vast number of books for all tastes," adding that price-promotions were "wonderful for the consumer."
He added: "It is in all our interests: publishers, readers, authors and other retailers—that Waterstone's flourishes. Without them we will have 300 more high streets without a stock-holding bookshop where you can browse, order books, listen to authors and be advised by knowledgeable and dedicated staff."
Iain Stevenson, professor at UCL's Centre for Publishing, agreed. "Despite "three for two" offers, Dan Brown and Katie Price, the last 15 years has been something of a golden age for quality publishing with new authors, bold new writing and more books (and choice) than ever," he said.
"Jeffries also makes the usual mistake by thinking that publishing is only about "literary heritage" and trade non-fiction. In fact, that is only a relatively small part of the sector. Scientific, professional, academic, children's, religious, educational and specialist publishing (from transport to popular genealogy and crafts), all of which Waterstone's sell, are important and healthy publishing categories and together comprise a far larger fraction of British publishing than all literary publishing."
However, Lynn Michell of independent Edinburgh-based publisher Linen Press said she "welcomed" the article, adding Amazon was "worse".
Michell said: "Here are the sums: my costs for publishing a high-quality novel or memoir with a small run is £4 a copy. Amazon takes 60% and I have to replace the book, so £2 for p&p.
"When a customer buys one of my books from Amazon, I pay Amazon £2. Waterstone's takes 50% and they pay the postage, so I make £1. If I sell direct from my website I get £6."
She urged readers to "support small publishers by buying directly from them before we all go bankrupt".