News

Waterstones reverts to original logo, drops apostrophe

Waterstones is reverting to its original logo in the Baskerville serif font and dropping its apostrophe in order to reflect a “truer” and confident picture of the business, the company announced today (11th January). Waterstones' managing director James Daunt said dropping the apostrophe would make the brand more versatile in the digital age of communication and underline the fact that hundreds of people now work for the company.
 
The previous Waterstones logo, which was introduced in May 2010, had been with a lower case ‘w' in FS Albert Pro font and its full name appeared with an apostrophe, reflecting the fact the chain had been founded by Tim Waterstone.
 
Daunt said: “Waterstones is an iconic brand deserving a capital W, and a font that reflects authority and confidence—Baskerville does just that.”
 
He added: “Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling. It also reflects an altogether truer picture of our business today which, while created by one, is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers.”
 
The company said the new design and spelling of the Waterstones logo will gradually be implemented in all written communication, display material, online and shop fits and refurbishments, but the lower case FS Albert Pro logo had only been transferred onto 25 stores.
 

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Well done Waterstones, instead of waiting for your competitors to take another step forward, you have foolishly taken one step backwards to a level of anonymous authority.

I loved the fresh contemporary vision your last rebrand projected. Surely you are now telling the printed book-buying public that your remaining high street stores should be aloof and in no way in line with modern thinking.

I'm your stores will easily absorb the cost of yet another refit.

Brilliant!

I love it when I leave a typo in an irate comment and lose all impact.

Last line should read:

"I'm sure your stores will easily absorb the cost of yet another refit."

Dean, I couldn't agree more. We have just had an absolutely terrible Christmas and first initiative of the new year to help fix our business for the future is to discuss an apostrophe and typeface. Please God come and help us the current leadership is rapidly becoming clueless.

Sorry should have added that maybe we should discuss making the H in Holland Park silent it would reflect the tradition of the area when is was full of markets!

Kobo had better watch out then or they'll be out on the streets if they remove the 'K'

What will the cost be of this pointles exercise?

I'd rather call it a de-brand. The last one was actually rather good, but this will just take the company a step back at further expense.

It seems Mr Daunt is running out of things to tell the publishing world and so has fallen upon the last resort or re-branding the company.

Instead, he should concentrate on getting his buying system working properly, because it is some way off at the moment.

Couldn't agree more.

This shows the same "let's get at 'em" kind of initiative that the BA currently display ("We are going to meet all these massive challenges absolutely head on - first we're going to have a party, and then a big dinner!").

How long before the 3 for 2 offer?

I actually think it is a smart move, brave even. Everyone moaned when Dominic introduced the lower case rebrand: people don't like change.

Why did my very innocuous comment disappear?

A publisher - I'm sure it is in fact entirely pertinent to comment on the things we think Mr Daunt should be getting in order for the business to work properly? ISn't that was this kind of forum is for? Hardly kicking them when they are down. In actual fact we are giving them a LOT of support right now, but that doesn't stop us being able to comment on the things that aren't working.

Philip - how is forking out the cash on another expensive and, let's face it, rather uninspired "re-brand" in the least bit smart?

It fell off because someone clicked the unsuitable link. My colleague will take a look at it. It does seem innocuous, you are right.

I can't answer for Daunt, but it seems to me that he thinks the type of book buyers he wants to attract into his shops would be more attracted to a capital W, than a lower case one. Given the comment we had when Dominic lowered the case, he could be on to something.

It's also clearly a way of detaching the business from the Tim Waterstone era, as Daunt says in his quote, something that has been a persistent problem for previous MDs, as we all know.

It maybe wasn't in the story when you read it, but only a handful of shops ever carried the rebranding, so I'd imagine it will actually be cheaper to revert back.

I doubt the decision would have distracted the Waterstones senior management for too long!

I see that posting anything that could be construed as criticising the Holy See of the book industry, and its head, is enough to have your comment removed. Interesting...

There's plenty of comments critical of Daunt etc so that's clearly not true. Thanks AshleyBrett that's a clearer explanation than I was able to come up with.

I don't understand the outrage here... Only a handful of stores have had the 'lowercase refit'. It won't cost much to change back to big W. In my store the only lowercase branding is on the carrier bags and review cards, and we have backlogs of the old review cards that get changed every six months.

The real outrage should be over the lack of e-readers in stores. We need to start selling devices before Kindle becomes synonymous with e-readers.

I didn't realise that the only place where the lower case logo is visible is on the shop fronts of 25 stores. I assumed lots of other stuff - t-shirts, advertising materials etc would have to be chucked and re-done. Obviously I'm wrong.

For Font's Sake is right - there are other things that are far more pressing and concerning for Waterstones at present, but apparently we're not allowed to mention them. It seems that if one makes a comment about something the big W needs to address, it is deemed as negative, or even removed, whereas what all we want is for them to succeed but we're just trying to have a discussion about what it takes for them to maybe do that.

Or am I missing the point of this forum?

I agree with the last comment. Waterstones does need to get ahead with ereaders.

Branding is also really important even though it can seem like a tiny thing removing an apostrophe. It's best to get these things right and move ahead with the name presented in a way that works well in URLs etc.

But with the ereaders I really would urge the need to get on with it. Publishers like us are having to work with Amazon because there's no choice at the moment, and we'd rather have a better choice.

We're just a small publishing company, but we were surprised to find ebook sales went well over December and seem sure to be an important part of our income.

In order to sell ebooks on Amazon we have to fit in with unfair conditions. They pay us 70% 'royalties' as they call them (yes they seem to want to be seen as the publishers, and as they're expanding so rapidly as a self publishing operation this perception is really taking off).

But I was shocked to see they often pay us just 35% of the ebook price. Apparently this is if we sell in certain countries not included in their main list - and those countries are important to us.

We also signed up to experiment with being on the Kindle Lending Library, to see if Amazon Prime members in the US would like this way of 'borrowing' our books. We did enroll for it for the minimum period of 3 months, but we have to agree not to offer the books on any other platform during that time.

We need to offer ebooks on other platforms in order to help bookshops, and to let authors and publishers sell on other websites and not just Amazon.

So come on Waterstones. Move ahead with this and help us to break the Amazon dominance in this market, which is almost total. They can even pay us lower commission on book sales if they see a competitive price somewhere. I am clearly not pleased about this, but unless competitors in the online bookselling market step up their operation we're stuck with it.

The ship has sailed. Bye bye ship. Kindle is utterly synonymous with e-readers. Not meaning to be negative, but it's just true. Maybe if you offered a free ebook with every print edition sold, that might be worth looking at? Makes total sense from a publisher's perspective.

It's brilliant that W'aterstones are going back to a serif font. I was never keen on their new design. But thanks to the actions of W'aterstones, it's another slightly curly nail in the coffin of the humble apostrophe. W'hat a punctuational predicament.

I would have thought the bigger outrage for the market as a whole - and what The Bookseller should be leading with it's headline - is that the top 5000 physical titles last week were -21% YOY (or -£3m)at £10.9m with fiction down 29%, and this is a position which is worsening.

No retailer or publisher can sustain this sort of performance for long. Two of the UKs biggest publishers had combined physical sales £1m down year on year last week alone. I shudder to think what retailer performance was like.

Digital sales will have undoubtedly filled part of the gap, but for a tiny minority of players.

Surely the in-depth piece is to look at the physical industry's response - from authors, agents, publisher and retailer. An apostrophe here or there is not important.

Completely agree Corey T, censorship on the Bookseller is now rampant. My earlier comment has been removed. It wasn't rude or personal but I guess if the Big W doesn't like it they just ring the Bookseller.

Well done Waterstones, instead of waiting for your competitors to take another step forward, you have foolishly taken one step backwards to a level of anonymous authority.

I loved the fresh contemporary vision your last rebrand projected. Surely you are now telling the printed book-buying public that your remaining high street stores should be aloof and in no way in line with modern thinking.

I'm your stores will easily absorb the cost of yet another refit.

I love it when I leave a typo in an irate comment and lose all impact.

Last line should read:

"I'm sure your stores will easily absorb the cost of yet another refit."

Hi Dean, typo or no, the point that this is costing too much is innacurate. As the article states of the 300ish stores only 25 were re-branded. To roll that out to all stores would cost much more than tweaking an apostrophe. Personally, I think the previous "new" logo has no place in the current set up anyway, given that it is an inverted M from the HMV logo.

The fact that 'only' 25 stores were rebranded reduces the immediate financial impact. The long term damage caused by the un-branding is the crucial point here.

The real cost is not the loss of existing customers (I'm sure they weren't driven to other high street book shops in their droves as a protest against the new branding) but the ground lost in the fast-paced consumer maelstrom where publishing is increasingly battling against visually arresting competition from many areas - TV, web, mobile and gaming.

This just doesn't work hard enough to entice new customers to the reading experience - be that in print or pixel.

That assumes that literally the only thing that makes up a brand is its name and logo.

Booksellers make up a huge part of the Waterstones' brand. For customer service, they got the number one spot on Mary Porter's poll of high street chains. James Daunt has recognized that Waterstones' brand and reputation is made from more than just one person.

The design of shops and how they present their stock is another massive part of the brand, and they've made big changes in that area since they were bought out of the HMV group.

These two things are really all that people are looking for in a book shop; if they're both great, people won't be put off shopping there by a dropped apostrophe or the logo on the bag they got with their purchase.

The assumption isn't that the logo is everything, I'm talking about the representation of the whole brand.

This reaches beyond the store where the layout and customer service come into play (both clearly commendable) and it is naive to think otherwise. Waterstones is represented in many more places than the stores themselves and this identity needs to stand out in an increasingly digitally dominated market.

If Mr D launches the proposed Waterstones e-reader, the brand will drop itself right in the middle of Amazon, Apple and Kobo where the strength of the brand's digital representation will play a vital role.

Maybe they should sell the unused apostrophes on eBay! Obviously, those previously "attached" to flagship stores would be more valuable.

Brilliant!

Dean, I couldn't agree more. We have just had an absolutely terrible Christmas and first initiative of the new year to help fix our business for the future is to discuss an apostrophe and typeface. Please God come and help us the current leadership is rapidly becoming clueless.

Sorry should have added that maybe we should discuss making the H in Holland Park silent it would reflect the tradition of the area when is was full of markets!

Kobo had better watch out then or they'll be out on the streets if they remove the 'K'

What will the cost be of this pointles exercise?

I'd rather call it a de-brand. The last one was actually rather good, but this will just take the company a step back at further expense.

It seems Mr Daunt is running out of things to tell the publishing world and so has fallen upon the last resort or re-branding the company.

Instead, he should concentrate on getting his buying system working properly, because it is some way off at the moment.

Minimal cost. Cost of new logo - nothing, as it is just the old logo minus the apostrophe. Only 20 or so shops had the recent rebrand on fascias etc, so other usage is just POS which gets replaced as it would anyway.

That's a good point. It is an easy rebranding exercise, requiring only a stepladder and a saw for outdoor signage.

Damn right!!

"What will the cost be of this pointles exercise?"

Very little.. I suspect that a vast number of interns will be employed to Tippex out the apostrophes on vast piles of stationary under the guise of "gaining an apprenticeship". No doubt some ephemeral, high-profile government initiative will be used to facilitate all this.

Couldn't agree more.

This shows the same "let's get at 'em" kind of initiative that the BA currently display ("We are going to meet all these massive challenges absolutely head on - first we're going to have a party, and then a big dinner!").

How long before the 3 for 2 offer?

Surely you mean "lets get em"?

I actually think it is a smart move, brave even. Everyone moaned when Dominic introduced the lower case rebrand: people don't like change.

Why did my very innocuous comment disappear?

A publisher - I'm sure it is in fact entirely pertinent to comment on the things we think Mr Daunt should be getting in order for the business to work properly? ISn't that was this kind of forum is for? Hardly kicking them when they are down. In actual fact we are giving them a LOT of support right now, but that doesn't stop us being able to comment on the things that aren't working.

Philip - how is forking out the cash on another expensive and, let's face it, rather uninspired "re-brand" in the least bit smart?

It fell off because someone clicked the unsuitable link. My colleague will take a look at it. It does seem innocuous, you are right.

I can't answer for Daunt, but it seems to me that he thinks the type of book buyers he wants to attract into his shops would be more attracted to a capital W, than a lower case one. Given the comment we had when Dominic lowered the case, he could be on to something.

It's also clearly a way of detaching the business from the Tim Waterstone era, as Daunt says in his quote, something that has been a persistent problem for previous MDs, as we all know.

It maybe wasn't in the story when you read it, but only a handful of shops ever carried the rebranding, so I'd imagine it will actually be cheaper to revert back.

I doubt the decision would have distracted the Waterstones senior management for too long!

Having just heard someone on Radio 4 saying that Tim Waterstone is once again the owner (news to me!) maybe it IS high time to drop the apostrophe...

I see that posting anything that could be construed as criticising the Holy See of the book industry, and its head, is enough to have your comment removed. Interesting...

There's plenty of comments critical of Daunt etc so that's clearly not true. Thanks AshleyBrett that's a clearer explanation than I was able to come up with.

I don't understand the outrage here... Only a handful of stores have had the 'lowercase refit'. It won't cost much to change back to big W. In my store the only lowercase branding is on the carrier bags and review cards, and we have backlogs of the old review cards that get changed every six months.

The real outrage should be over the lack of e-readers in stores. We need to start selling devices before Kindle becomes synonymous with e-readers.

The ship has sailed. Bye bye ship. Kindle is utterly synonymous with e-readers. Not meaning to be negative, but it's just true. Maybe if you offered a free ebook with every print edition sold, that might be worth looking at? Makes total sense from a publisher's perspective.

I couldn't agree more. When my mother-in law and step-mother-in-law recently told me that they now had Kindles, it drove home the extent of the product's success. If two women in their 70s - neither whom have any interest in gadgets - have embraced the ebook, then the outlook for high street booksellers is pretty grim.

There will still be a demand for high quality printed books, particularly children's titles, but paperback sales are going to collapse. As 'downbythebeach' says, "The ship has sailed".

The only hope for Waterstone's - sorry, Waterstones - is to get the Nook on sale asap and have a really aggressive campaign with free ebooks - maybe offer them preloaded with a selection of the '100 greatest books' (which would help gift sales).

As for the font - yes, it makes sense. Will managers now be issued with a pot of black paint to cover up the apostrophe?

Good point - I was surprised by how many non-gadget people middle aged or older got Kindles for Christmas this year - and had requested them. Not looking great for high street booksellers as you say.

However, any promotion by the bookseller is usually down to the discount they receive from the publisher. Waterstones isn't giving books away at 3 for 2 - the publisher is. I doubt very much that any publishers are going to want to give away free content in order to help Waterstones or any other single bookseller survive the downturn. Especially when they're already seeing the profits elsewhere. Even if they did want to help, they'd rightly face the wrath of all other shops and distributors for propping up a competitor.

I didn't realise that the only place where the lower case logo is visible is on the shop fronts of 25 stores. I assumed lots of other stuff - t-shirts, advertising materials etc would have to be chucked and re-done. Obviously I'm wrong.

For Font's Sake is right - there are other things that are far more pressing and concerning for Waterstones at present, but apparently we're not allowed to mention them. It seems that if one makes a comment about something the big W needs to address, it is deemed as negative, or even removed, whereas what all we want is for them to succeed but we're just trying to have a discussion about what it takes for them to maybe do that.

Or am I missing the point of this forum?

Completely agree Corey T, censorship on the Bookseller is now rampant. My earlier comment has been removed. It wasn't rude or personal but I guess if the Big W doesn't like it they just ring the Bookseller.

I agree with the last comment. Waterstones does need to get ahead with ereaders.

Branding is also really important even though it can seem like a tiny thing removing an apostrophe. It's best to get these things right and move ahead with the name presented in a way that works well in URLs etc.

But with the ereaders I really would urge the need to get on with it. Publishers like us are having to work with Amazon because there's no choice at the moment, and we'd rather have a better choice.

We're just a small publishing company, but we were surprised to find ebook sales went well over December and seem sure to be an important part of our income.

In order to sell ebooks on Amazon we have to fit in with unfair conditions. They pay us 70% 'royalties' as they call them (yes they seem to want to be seen as the publishers, and as they're expanding so rapidly as a self publishing operation this perception is really taking off).

But I was shocked to see they often pay us just 35% of the ebook price. Apparently this is if we sell in certain countries not included in their main list - and those countries are important to us.

We also signed up to experiment with being on the Kindle Lending Library, to see if Amazon Prime members in the US would like this way of 'borrowing' our books. We did enroll for it for the minimum period of 3 months, but we have to agree not to offer the books on any other platform during that time.

We need to offer ebooks on other platforms in order to help bookshops, and to let authors and publishers sell on other websites and not just Amazon.

So come on Waterstones. Move ahead with this and help us to break the Amazon dominance in this market, which is almost total. They can even pay us lower commission on book sales if they see a competitive price somewhere. I am clearly not pleased about this, but unless competitors in the online bookselling market step up their operation we're stuck with it.

Waterstones should forge ahead with e-readers, for sure, but they can't break the Amazon dominance on their own. Only the publishers can do that - and since they've spent the last 15 years utterly in thrall to Amazon, I'm not holding my breath.

The publishers have handed the game to Amazon and one or two other big players. They have:

A. For years given preferential terms to Amazon, even when it's harmed their business as a whole.

B. Now, in the rush to embrace ebooks, they have put all their eggs in the basket of Kindle and iTunes. Smaller ebook stores have had swathes of books removed from their lists in the last year because the actions of the big six publishers.

Well, that's life. But the publishers have not stood up to Amazon, and they are now in a very weak position. They will have to pay more and more just to get their books listed. And in the end, Amazon will be a bigger publisher than any of them.

It's brilliant that W'aterstones are going back to a serif font. I was never keen on their new design. But thanks to the actions of W'aterstones, it's another slightly curly nail in the coffin of the humble apostrophe. W'hat a punctuational predicament.

I would have thought the bigger outrage for the market as a whole - and what The Bookseller should be leading with it's headline - is that the top 5000 physical titles last week were -21% YOY (or -£3m)at £10.9m with fiction down 29%, and this is a position which is worsening.

No retailer or publisher can sustain this sort of performance for long. Two of the UKs biggest publishers had combined physical sales £1m down year on year last week alone. I shudder to think what retailer performance was like.

Digital sales will have undoubtedly filled part of the gap, but for a tiny minority of players.

Surely the in-depth piece is to look at the physical industry's response - from authors, agents, publisher and retailer. An apostrophe here or there is not important.

Well said. Tinkering with the logo in a few shops seems irrelevant when things (seem to be)so dire. Waterstones need an e reader, a decent website and the ability for their customers to buy gift vouchers online possibly more than a very small, and possibly not noticed by the public, corporate recognition exercise.

Thank you AshleyBrett et al for voice of reason and commonsense. Moreover, decisions like this one have come from a survey responded to by over 70% of stores. Welcome back Baskerville. Now, can we stop moaning and get back to what we do best; talking to customers about some of the brilliant new titles we have the priviledged position to be able to sell?

Glad to see that they're focusing on the important things. Good work Mister Daunt!

Fascinating and made my memory spark the following: many, many years ago whilst a W manager I attended a meeting in London that was called to 'discuss' the (then) current 're-branding' exercise. There were so many during my years with them. By mid-morning the venue was filled with all the managers of the company. Secrecy was ensured by security at the door. In those days they even feared industrial espionage by Dillons. We were told that after a lengthy and costly referral to a marketing/brand consultancy a decision had finally been reached. Several large wooden 'W' models were passed amongst the audience to be admired and fondled. Then came the decision. It had been decided to make no change to the W typeface. The explanation from the Brentford nabobs to justify the cost of the consultancy was given by the (then) Marketing Director. The gist of it was " well, imagine you are driving in the country. You are on the main road, when suddenly you decide to take a smaller lane to see where it leads. You find that it takes you to a dead-end but on the way you may see some lovely scenery. Yes, you have wasted petrol and time. But wasn't it interesting?" It was the first and last time that I saw Robert Topping speechless. His only comment later over a beer was " Mmmmm, remind me to never get in a car with him".

Sounds like a classic case of Marketing needing to spend their entire annual budget so they don't lose it again the next year. Amazing.

To all those complaining about losing the apostrophe and it being an affront on the english language. You apostrophe sticklers are all wrong, so yahhhboo to your arrogance. It is currently a possessive apostrophe, as in this place is the place of, or owned by, a Mr or Mrs Waterstone. This has no place since Mr Waterstone does not own the chain. Waterstones is now simply a brand name. An apostrophe has no place. If you are a stickler for punctuation then you should agree with the change. If you don't give one about punctuation, then why do you care so much?

Plus you can't put a ' in a url. I have seen my very own mother do this and then get fed up and go to Amazon because she thought the siter was down. It didn't even occur to her to try without. Yes my mother is a technolgical fool but how many more are there? Plus do a google search for waterstone's with a ' and then one without and you will get different results. People are spelling it willy nilly. If it was still owned by a Waterstone I would be complaining and fighting for the apostrophe like others but as it isn't it makes much more sense on every level to lose it.

As for the cost. Only 25 stores had the lower w rebranded on it's fittings before the money ran out (and becuase HMV didn't want to rebrand stores they would probably close) so it is much much cheaper to rebrand 25 stores rather than the whole estate so you should be congratulating Mr Daunt for doing the sensible thing since you are always clamouring for common sense and sensible spending.

When Myers rebranded to the little saggy boobs everyone complained, the grammar and spelling police were out in force saying that as a Bookseller they should be showing some authority in the use of spelling, punctuation and the use of capital letters, that if a bookseller doesn't know how to use words properly, it's a bit of a joke. Staff and customers said it was patronising, 100's here on the bookseller complained it was HMV trying to be too cool for skool and that the old W stood for something. So now Daunt has sided with you all and used the same arguments...you're unhappy why?

I hate to say it, but what you just did is classic: argue the case for removed apostrophes and then >insert< one where it is not needed, in 100s.

Well spotted. These things always happen when you type in haste.

There's another unnecessary one in "on it's fittings".

I went into Waterstones yesterday and asked if they had an apostrophe. None in stock, and they can't order one in! They told me to go to Smith's. Or something like that.

surely this is just tinkering on the margins and ignoring the elephant in the room?

It makes sense. But I know a lot of money was "wasted" to look at rebranding 300+ stores individually. Lets hope this means that the investment in booksellers on the shop floor is close! :)

We had a good laugh about this story yesterday in the office and thought it was one of the best April Fool stories we've seen yet. Good to see Waterstone/'s/s ahead of the curve like this. Forgive me for thinking that it will take more than an apostrophe's lack of presence on a fascia to turn the company around. Oh and how ironic for a company in the book business to introduce a deliberate mistake like this - the poor man was called Waterstone for goodness sake! Waterstones as a plural made-up word sounds a bit hippy-ish and makes me want to rush to listen to the old Gong albums!

I think we now need official guidance on whether to pronounce it Water-stones or Water-stuns. Personally I favour the former.

On a more serious note, I 'm so glad they've decided to go back to Baskerville. That other font was hideous.

All this faffing around with whether or not this is a good idea or not - there's surely got to be some better book industry news to get het up about, no? In the press release I saw there was absolutely no claim whatsoever that the removal of an apostrophe would make any immediate or direct change to the company's fortunes; it's just a move to consistency and, at its most dramatic, a distancing of the company from pre-Daunt influences. Imaginary refits aside this is a tiny step in the company's new direction, some of which (gasp!) doesn't actulaly get reported in The Bookseller. I know there are a lot of people who've been practising their rueful laughs in anticipation of Waterstones' downfall for some time now but I think it would be useful to retain some perspective on this. Waterstone(')s sent a press release, the Bookseller reported it and an organisation, whose job it is to get upset about apostrophes, got upset about apostrophes. That's it. Now step away from the internet and come and browse our shelves please. (Rant ends)

Well said, Mr Bookseller. Foyles does not have an apostrophe, neither did Dillons. They were founded by people called Foyle and Dillon.

Reporting on Waterstones losing an apostrophe does not mean we won't report on the downturn in printed book sales and on the high street strife, today, tomorrow and etc.

On the issue of sales of the top 5,000 titles being down 20%: this does appear to be mainly because of a drop in fiction sales, a clear indication of sales transferring (rather than being lost) to the Kindle, er digital readers. It was referenced in our charts story this week, but you are right, we should cover the news separately.