Waterstone's is to launch its own e-reader in 2012 inspired by Barnes & Noble's Nook device.
Waterstone's m.d. James Daunt has spoken to BBC Radio 4's "You & Yours" programme, on the edition broadcast today (9th September) at 12 p.m., telling the programme he wants to rival Amazon's Kindle.
The Waterstone's chief said the project is "well down the planning line", and would launch in spring next year.
On the programme, Daunt said: "We in Waterstone's need to offer you a digital reader which is at least as good, and preferably substantially better, than that of our internet rival, and you will have a much better buying experience purchasing your books through us."
Daunt added he would be "disappointed" if Waterstone's couldn't come up with a digital offer that would at least match Amazon, if not be "substantially better" than it.
He said US bookselling chain Barnes & Noble had managed to win market share back from Amazon by linking the electronic product with its high street stores. He said: "They [B&N] have been gaining enormous market share, an increasing market share from Amazon. Effectively they are beating Amazon in their own back yard and it doesn't surprise me at all that they are doing that.
"They run good bookshops that command the loyalty and indeed love of their customers and their customers choose to buy their reading in both physical format through them—that makes perfect sense to me. We in Waterstone's need to offer you a digital reader which is at least as good and preferably substantially better than our internet rival and you will have a much better buying experience purchasing your books through us and that is physical books, digital books both, we don't mind which."
Daunt added: "I have spent well over 20 years now selling books—that is what I am, a shop floor bookseller. I happen to understand absolutely and precisely how running the shop floor of a bookshop works and that is a great advantage."
He added that he is currently reading Anna Funder's new novel All That I Am (Penguin).
Publishers have welcomed the move, with Tom Weldon, Penguin UK c.e.o. commenting: "It is very exciting indeed to hear that Waterstone's is planning to launch an e-reader in the Spring. It makes complete strategic sense."
Ian Hudson, deputy c.e.o of Random House, said: "Barnes & Noble has shown what can be done when a leading high street retailer puts its weight behind a high quality digital reader. I very much hope that Waterstone's can achieve the same level of success here in the UK.
"As publishers, our aim is to make our books available to consumers wherever they want, on whatever device they choose. This move by Waterstone's can only help grow the digital market by providing consumers with an even wider range of options for how they read."