News

Waterstone's to launch own e-reader

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."
 
 

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One word: Wi-fi

Is that two words?
Either way, if this device doesn't have wi-fi at a reasonable price, there is no point - the market is saturated with ereaders now as it is.
A Waterstone's-branded ereader IS a good idea beacuase, well, they sell books don't they?

A long time coming, but still up in the air. Battling the kindle is like battling the ipod range. It's a respected and popular choice, that's eaten up a huge chunk of the e-reader market. If Daunt does pull out some unique tricks, and maybe has some way of putting the browsing/purchasing of e-books in store, well it may steal some of Amazon's thunder. I think the ability to actually go beyond selling the basic unit to a customer, and to still talk shop with them about books and recommendations would certainly point in the right direction. We'd at the very least then be able to show our knowledge, whilst showing our after purchase support to the customer, and hopefully help build that relationship, to create repeat business. But of course this in a way is an ideal to some, but not to all. Having dedicated tech terminals for browsing and purchasing has kind of been done in ways before, and they weren't without issues. Also a large piece of the battle will naturally come down to what price we sell the e-books. If we can match, or top the pricing of Amazon, then in the long run, the waterstone's device is a much more tempting offer. As long as no silly ideas like hard coding and such forth hit the reader, we could well do well. Guess time will tell.

I agree with Mr Horse, that fighting Amazon is like stopping the tide; I remember a trial W ran years ago, discounting titles online to see how long it took Amazon to undercut them - the answer was around 2 minutes! However, if the booksellers really get on board, W will have a chance. From experience, lots of the staff in W couldn't give a tinker's cuss for the e-reader models they sell, and it's normally up to a "champion" *spits in disgust* to get the sales with a tired patter and cheeky grin. Educate and they may just pinch some market share.

Since they are talking to publishers anyway, couldn't Waterstone's 'do a deal' on BIG new hardbacks perhaps where if you buy the hardback you get the ebook free?
For a limited period, anyway.
That way, you're targetting people who buy hardbacks but are thinking about an ereader AND people who like to own books but already own an ereader for travel purposes, etc.

Just an idea.
It's early, leave me alone... I haven't had my coffee yet.

Doing what they have to do good for them, although fighting kindle/Amazon will be hard. Incidentally I used to work with the guy who pulled the plug on Waterstone's internet and leased the domain to Amazon. Now THAT was a good move... (when I say work with, I of course mean worked for. People with that kind of business nous rise quickly)

This is where agency pricing will help! For books under agency, Amazon wont be able to undercut waterstones (or ibooks, or others) pricing. This means that customer care, knowledgeable selling, good discoverability of titles will actually have a meaningful effect on who sells more ebooks.

Brilliant idea!

Glad to see the nay-sayers are still wallowing about in their "it'll never work" world!

'There is where agency pricing will help... customer care, knowledgeable selling...'

Your having a larf right! Agency pricing will not lead to Waterstone's selling more ebooks. Nevermind the on-going legal issues, agency pricing will lead to a decline in the number of ebooks sold (as it has done), a general customer perception of poor value for money and a consequent increase in piracy.

Agency pricing is blind alley which will destroy the selling of ebooks...

Waterstones is kind of late to this party, isn't it? Difficult to imagine them being able to deliver a 'much better buying experience' than Amazon's, given that Amazon is so good at what it does. Will Waterstones transfer to digital their in-store policy of selling publishers the front of shop table space? Because right now Amazon promotes the books it thinks readers are after, not the ones publishers are pushing, and this is one reason for its success.

Plus the launch of Pottermore next month will no doubt give a huge boost to the Sony e-reader.

@ Lexi,

read other articles added today. Waterstone's are moving away from charging publishers promo costs.

Count Duckula, this is excellent news. Most readers have no idea that publishers pay bookshops for preferential display, and don't approve when they find out about it.

I listened to James Daunt on Radio 4 this lunchtime, and thought he sounded a good egg.

Agreed. Amazon are so mighty blah blah blah.
So we shouldn't bother?!
Customer "Hi do you sell the kindle?"
Bookseller "No we sell the Wook (or something) it's brilliant and you can get deals on real books too..let me show you how it works" Pulls out demo model for a play.

We need to get the training right on this - not the half arsed job that was done with the Sony ones!

Customer support with regard to returns of faulty readers has to be completely different from the "tough luck, you're stuck with it" model that Sony enforced.

Count me as first in the queue. I hate having to trawl through pages and pages of Amazon's self-published tripe to find a decent book.

Thank God for Waterstones.

It could work if it is actually a great model and not like the tripe they currently sell, which let's face it, has at least a 50% return rate (and I'm betting most of the other half stopped working too but the customers were too embarrassed or disgruntled to return).

Oh and get an actual working helpline that not actually answers the phone but can actually help.

The guys currently in charge of tech' have espoused the whole 'well we just need to get customers to buy them/get money in the till routine and then worry about the quality/returns later, for some time so I'm guessing W will need a cash injection and a new team with a real passion for quality assurance if this is to be pulled off. This could be brilliant. I just hope that by next spring it's not too late, with customers by then merely associating W ereaders with tat and bad customer service.

I think this is a great idea... depending on who they get to build it, and the software behind it.

@MadBob - in our store, at least, we were all happy with the Sonys, after a couple of straight forward training sessions with the more knowledgable staff members.

We had confidence in the Sonys, and never had any problems with the (very few) faulty returns we processed. The Elonex on the other hand... sold very few as we simply didn't want to sell such faulty tat to customers. And most of those we did sell came back.

Waterstones needs a quality reader that the staff can be confident in promoting and selling. (And yes, wi-fi would help)

It would be nice to see some books sold with digital copies too (as with some DVDs/ Blu-Rays).

My Kindle experience was superb. My kindle collapsed on a Sunday. Screen turned to hieroglyphics. Monday phoned Amazon UK Kindle Support and spoke to a real person ( a lovely Irish lady in Cork ). Tuesday received confirmation that a replacement Kindle was being shipped from the USA ( I live in Botswana so although my original Kindle was purchased in the UK my account for some obscure copyright reasons is with Amazon.com )
Friday lunchtime my replacement Kindle was delivered to my office address in Gaborone completely free of charge.
My only problem was that when I asked if I should return the faulty Kindle I was told that no I should have it recycled. Unfortunately Botswana only has land-fill waste disposal!
The very best customer service response I have ever received. It will be a hard act to beat.

I read books for pleasure and leisure. Since getting my Kindle I spend maybe 10 times as much on books per month as I used to. My wife and I cancelled our monthly payment for the 126 satellite TV channels we used to receive. We now spend that money on books. Why?
I discover a book I might like to read. I download the sample (2 or 3 chapters). More than I would read browsing in a bookshop. If I get hooked I just press the "BUY NOW" button and 90 seconds later I have the book!
What next. I discover an author I like and start reading their backlist starting with the first book they published. 90 seconds after finishing one book I've purchased their next. Bookshops cannot compete with this instant gratification.
Wonderful news for authors. Not such good news for terrestial booksellers

I founded Fledgling to publish ebooks in 2000, when not many people had Ereaders. I had an early Sony Reader, an Ectaco Jetbook, and now a Kindle. Ereaders have come of age now, and the Kindle is a brilliant machine - apart from minor bugs like how to switch off the voice, and how to read a newspaper. I also have a garage full of overstocked short-run printed books, the downside of small independent publishers, and an invoice for Border Books that dented my margins when they went bust.

Up to now the best e-readers we've had by a country mile were the Sonys, but even they were poor compared to the Kindle and were way overpriced. And of course, they were very rarely actually in stock so much of the time we were left with the embarrassing and ultimately futile task of trying to convince customers to buy one of those terrible Elonex efforts.

I look forward to having an e-reading offer that we can all confidently get behind and make successful, though I can't help but think that this should have happened several years ago.

One word: Wi-fi

Is that two words?
Either way, if this device doesn't have wi-fi at a reasonable price, there is no point - the market is saturated with ereaders now as it is.
A Waterstone's-branded ereader IS a good idea beacuase, well, they sell books don't they?

A long time coming, but still up in the air. Battling the kindle is like battling the ipod range. It's a respected and popular choice, that's eaten up a huge chunk of the e-reader market. If Daunt does pull out some unique tricks, and maybe has some way of putting the browsing/purchasing of e-books in store, well it may steal some of Amazon's thunder. I think the ability to actually go beyond selling the basic unit to a customer, and to still talk shop with them about books and recommendations would certainly point in the right direction. We'd at the very least then be able to show our knowledge, whilst showing our after purchase support to the customer, and hopefully help build that relationship, to create repeat business. But of course this in a way is an ideal to some, but not to all. Having dedicated tech terminals for browsing and purchasing has kind of been done in ways before, and they weren't without issues. Also a large piece of the battle will naturally come down to what price we sell the e-books. If we can match, or top the pricing of Amazon, then in the long run, the waterstone's device is a much more tempting offer. As long as no silly ideas like hard coding and such forth hit the reader, we could well do well. Guess time will tell.

I agree with Mr Horse, that fighting Amazon is like stopping the tide; I remember a trial W ran years ago, discounting titles online to see how long it took Amazon to undercut them - the answer was around 2 minutes! However, if the booksellers really get on board, W will have a chance. From experience, lots of the staff in W couldn't give a tinker's cuss for the e-reader models they sell, and it's normally up to a "champion" *spits in disgust* to get the sales with a tired patter and cheeky grin. Educate and they may just pinch some market share.

Since they are talking to publishers anyway, couldn't Waterstone's 'do a deal' on BIG new hardbacks perhaps where if you buy the hardback you get the ebook free?
For a limited period, anyway.
That way, you're targetting people who buy hardbacks but are thinking about an ereader AND people who like to own books but already own an ereader for travel purposes, etc.

Just an idea.
It's early, leave me alone... I haven't had my coffee yet.

Doing what they have to do good for them, although fighting kindle/Amazon will be hard. Incidentally I used to work with the guy who pulled the plug on Waterstone's internet and leased the domain to Amazon. Now THAT was a good move... (when I say work with, I of course mean worked for. People with that kind of business nous rise quickly)

This is where agency pricing will help! For books under agency, Amazon wont be able to undercut waterstones (or ibooks, or others) pricing. This means that customer care, knowledgeable selling, good discoverability of titles will actually have a meaningful effect on who sells more ebooks.

Brilliant idea!

Glad to see the nay-sayers are still wallowing about in their "it'll never work" world!

Agreed. Amazon are so mighty blah blah blah.
So we shouldn't bother?!
Customer "Hi do you sell the kindle?"
Bookseller "No we sell the Wook (or something) it's brilliant and you can get deals on real books too..let me show you how it works" Pulls out demo model for a play.

We need to get the training right on this - not the half arsed job that was done with the Sony ones!

Customer support with regard to returns of faulty readers has to be completely different from the "tough luck, you're stuck with it" model that Sony enforced.

My Kindle experience was superb. My kindle collapsed on a Sunday. Screen turned to hieroglyphics. Monday phoned Amazon UK Kindle Support and spoke to a real person ( a lovely Irish lady in Cork ). Tuesday received confirmation that a replacement Kindle was being shipped from the USA ( I live in Botswana so although my original Kindle was purchased in the UK my account for some obscure copyright reasons is with Amazon.com )
Friday lunchtime my replacement Kindle was delivered to my office address in Gaborone completely free of charge.
My only problem was that when I asked if I should return the faulty Kindle I was told that no I should have it recycled. Unfortunately Botswana only has land-fill waste disposal!
The very best customer service response I have ever received. It will be a hard act to beat.

'There is where agency pricing will help... customer care, knowledgeable selling...'

Your having a larf right! Agency pricing will not lead to Waterstone's selling more ebooks. Nevermind the on-going legal issues, agency pricing will lead to a decline in the number of ebooks sold (as it has done), a general customer perception of poor value for money and a consequent increase in piracy.

Agency pricing is blind alley which will destroy the selling of ebooks...

@adam2130. Give us some evidence to back up your claim that agency has led to a decline in the number of ebooks sold.

Waterstones is kind of late to this party, isn't it? Difficult to imagine them being able to deliver a 'much better buying experience' than Amazon's, given that Amazon is so good at what it does. Will Waterstones transfer to digital their in-store policy of selling publishers the front of shop table space? Because right now Amazon promotes the books it thinks readers are after, not the ones publishers are pushing, and this is one reason for its success.

Plus the launch of Pottermore next month will no doubt give a huge boost to the Sony e-reader.

@ Lexi,

read other articles added today. Waterstone's are moving away from charging publishers promo costs.

Count Duckula, this is excellent news. Most readers have no idea that publishers pay bookshops for preferential display, and don't approve when they find out about it.

I listened to James Daunt on Radio 4 this lunchtime, and thought he sounded a good egg.

Count me as first in the queue. I hate having to trawl through pages and pages of Amazon's self-published tripe to find a decent book.

Thank God for Waterstones.

It could work if it is actually a great model and not like the tripe they currently sell, which let's face it, has at least a 50% return rate (and I'm betting most of the other half stopped working too but the customers were too embarrassed or disgruntled to return).

Oh and get an actual working helpline that not actually answers the phone but can actually help.

The guys currently in charge of tech' have espoused the whole 'well we just need to get customers to buy them/get money in the till routine and then worry about the quality/returns later, for some time so I'm guessing W will need a cash injection and a new team with a real passion for quality assurance if this is to be pulled off. This could be brilliant. I just hope that by next spring it's not too late, with customers by then merely associating W ereaders with tat and bad customer service.

I think this is a great idea... depending on who they get to build it, and the software behind it.

@MadBob - in our store, at least, we were all happy with the Sonys, after a couple of straight forward training sessions with the more knowledgable staff members.

We had confidence in the Sonys, and never had any problems with the (very few) faulty returns we processed. The Elonex on the other hand... sold very few as we simply didn't want to sell such faulty tat to customers. And most of those we did sell came back.

Waterstones needs a quality reader that the staff can be confident in promoting and selling. (And yes, wi-fi would help)

It would be nice to see some books sold with digital copies too (as with some DVDs/ Blu-Rays).

I read books for pleasure and leisure. Since getting my Kindle I spend maybe 10 times as much on books per month as I used to. My wife and I cancelled our monthly payment for the 126 satellite TV channels we used to receive. We now spend that money on books. Why?
I discover a book I might like to read. I download the sample (2 or 3 chapters). More than I would read browsing in a bookshop. If I get hooked I just press the "BUY NOW" button and 90 seconds later I have the book!
What next. I discover an author I like and start reading their backlist starting with the first book they published. 90 seconds after finishing one book I've purchased their next. Bookshops cannot compete with this instant gratification.
Wonderful news for authors. Not such good news for terrestial booksellers

I founded Fledgling to publish ebooks in 2000, when not many people had Ereaders. I had an early Sony Reader, an Ectaco Jetbook, and now a Kindle. Ereaders have come of age now, and the Kindle is a brilliant machine - apart from minor bugs like how to switch off the voice, and how to read a newspaper. I also have a garage full of overstocked short-run printed books, the downside of small independent publishers, and an invoice for Border Books that dented my margins when they went bust.

Up to now the best e-readers we've had by a country mile were the Sonys, but even they were poor compared to the Kindle and were way overpriced. And of course, they were very rarely actually in stock so much of the time we were left with the embarrassing and ultimately futile task of trying to convince customers to buy one of those terrible Elonex efforts.

I look forward to having an e-reading offer that we can all confidently get behind and make successful, though I can't help but think that this should have happened several years ago.

@clipdo : If Waterstones build services around this they can make it work. Much of the existing Kindle world is US centric. There is an opportunity here for Waterstones to differentiate based in their UK heritage and very importantly integrated services from UK media organisations

It can work and it has to. In the face of a digital tide you either lie down and die (HMV anyone?) or you innovate and fast.

jon@clipdo.com

Norwich booklover - How dreadful that you should be welcomed by a smile as you enter the Castle Street store. I can suggest many other highstreet retailers in Norwich who will ignore you completely and provide a ready shrug of the shoulders should you attempt to ask them a question.

Best of luck to all staff at Dorking and the Royal Arcade stores in finding employment.

Will Waterstone' show some social responsibility and allow its device to be used by libraries as Amazon have allowed the Kindle to be in the US but not the UK?

I was doubtful about this when I first heard about the Waterstone's reader but the fact the chain is now exiting the current e-reader range which should give us all encouragement.
Staff seem to have been embarrassed by the recent range (for good reason)which has done the brand no good at all. The fact that Daunt has now done away with them, should show us that he really cares about quality, therefore the new Waterstone's reader should be really good. He's not going to foist tat on the public or he would have just stuck with what he currently has.

Something for both staff and customers to look forward to.

Oh Dear Amazon announce their Fire device, Waterstone catch up strangled at birth