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Publishers "celebrating" after Waterstone's takeover
23.05.11 | Bookseller Staff
The takeover of Waterstone's by Alexander Mamut is cause for celebration among the publishing industry, Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page has said.
In one of several weekend press reports about Friday's purchase of the chain, Page told the Sunday Telegraph if Waterstone's was to close, writers of lesser known novels would lose essential exposure. "Waterstone's is our core market and it is the only specialist bookseller with a presence in most UK cities. We are celebrating . . . Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers. People are more impulsive online, in the way iTunes is more impulsive as a record store."
Penguin UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon added: "Bricks and mortar retailers are clearly the shop window. All publishers have an interest in the financial security of Waterstone's. And publishers need to help Waterstone's in any way they can. This may be through author events, while booksellers need to focus on better embracing their local communities."
Daunt himself outlined his bookselling philosophy to the Independent. He said: "First of all you need good books, the right ones and enough of them. You need to establish a good ambiance and finally you need really good staff."
Enders Analysis analyst Benedict Evans said of Daunt: "He is a great bookseller and Waterstone's has not been a great bookshop in many years." However, he warned against Daunt trying to replicate his independent model across the Waterstone's chain. "You can't turn all 296 [shops] into a Daunt-style store," he said.
He repeated the widely held belief that one of his first tasks will be to reduce the number of stores but suggested the chain should concentrate on being a bookstore and not focus on non-book product. He said: "One of the mis-steps Waterstone's made was that it tried to shore up its revenues with ancillary products that ended up diluting its attractiveness as a bookstore. The plan will be to strip it back, although the execution will be hard."
The Sun said the Waterstone's sale "was akin to [HMV Group] selling off the family silver" but the cash would pay off debts. The Daily Mail's City editor Alex Brummer thought running two franchises under threat from digital rivals was a "car crash" for HMV Group. He said the task awaiting James Daunt has been underlined by changes to the book market in the US, where Amazon announced on Thursday e-book sales have outstripped those of physical books and Barnes & Noble received a £633m rescue bid.