I’ve been longing for Waterstones to bring out an ebook reader and a better ebook shop, so I was intrigued to hear what James Daunt would say about his plans. He was interviewed on You and Yours (BBC Radio 4, Friday 9 September), when he also explained some of the rationale behind ending Waterstones’ 3 for 2 offers. Here are my notes of what he said on Friday.
James Daunt on a Waterstones ereader: “We want one and we will have one, and our new owner has the means to invest in it”. He’s been wanting to face the challenge posed by Amazon and the Kindle: “We can do so many things better than Amazon”. As Barnes and Noble and the Nook have proved, digital sales combined with a physical bookshop is a powerful combination that makes perfect sense.
He said Waterstones’ ereader would be at least as good as Amazon, and preferably substantially better so Waterstones will give customers a better buying experience for physical and digital books . Timescale: Spring.
What is he reading? Anna Funder, All That I Am, which is “fabulous”. He loves having a job where he has to read wonderful novels, although he reads more books he needs to know about than books he chooses for pleasure.
James Daunt on the 3 for 2s: Waterstones are not ditching the 3 for 2 “as a concept” but don’t want to penalise people who just want to buy one book. The trouble is, that type of offer encourages “all sorts of strange behaviours other than focusing on buying the best book”.
But books only got into the 3 for 2 offer “if cheques are written” which was bad news for authors who were not subject to those deals. Much more stimulating bookshops will result, that are not the same all across the country because bookshops should be run by their managers, not centrally. Central buying of offers etc strangles the individuality and passion in local shops.
Is he trying to remake the Waterstones chain in his own image? In James Daunt’s own words: “We’ll see”.