Publishers "lax" on physical quality of books - Daunt

Publishers "lax" on physical quality of books - Daunt

Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt has accused publishers of being “lax” in not paying enough attention to the physical quality of books while warning bricks and mortar bookshops will not survive unless they are good enough.

Speaking about “The Future of the Book” on BBC Radio 4’s "The World At One" programme today [15th August], Daunt said publishers need to “re-examine some of the basics of their industry” to ensure the physical book survives in an increasingly digital world.

He said: “Do the publishing houses face challenges particularly in the digital world where territorial rights and copyright are clearly much more difficult to enforce? Yes. Do I think publishers need to re-examine some of the basics of their industry to get that right? [Yes] For example, I think that the attention to the physical quality of the book has been lax. They have not recognised that this is as important as it is.”

The Waterstone's m.d., who also owns London mini-chain Daunt Books, said he doubted e-books would be as successful as some pundits and industry figures have predicted. He said: “The glee with which publishers, authors and agents and the like expect it to take over is primarily driven by a commercial excitement about the benefits that will flow to them.”

While he “absolutely vehemently” believes the physical book won’t “die”, Daunt admitted the question of the survival of the physical bookshop was more problematic. He said: “I think the honest answer to that is ‘no’—not unless it is good enough.”

However, despite accepting Waterstone’s had failed to meet customer expectations in the past, Daunt said he was confident the business could win them back. He said: "We are a business that has not satisfied its customers for some time and is paying the price for that. Can we satisfy our customers and can win them back? I would not have taken this on if I didn’t believe we could but we need much, much better bookshops.”