That’s Why Waterstones Are Failing…

…they aren’t ‘aggressively commercial’ enough:

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstone’s, told The Bookseller: “It’s disappointing, to say the least, that a very British institution is driving readers away from local libraries and high- street bookshops. In an environment where high-street booksellers and libraries face huge pressures, it is a shame that the British Library choose to give their endorsement to one aggressively commercial organisation.”

Oh, how unfair! If only you’d thought of getting in first and doing a deal with them, eh? Oh, well. That’s business, James.

Johnny de Falbe, co-owner of London’s Sandoe bookshop, said: “The British Library, a public institution, should not be offering this link to Amazon, which is not – last I heard – a public institution.”

But neither is Sandoe Bookstore. Is it?

A spokesman for the library said the new system was at a pilot stage. The software purchased for the new search functions can link only to Amazon, but the library insists it does not make any revenue from the redirects. The spokesman said: “The library is reviewing the success of this service.”

Now, that’s the only thing I can take issue with – if it’s possible for the British Library to make some money from those sponsored links, why is it not doing so?

And as for this review, who is it asking? If it’s library customers, fair enough. If it’s whinging rivals, well, why should they have their gripes entertained?

Earlier this month, the Booksellers Association launched a campaign calling on the Government to do more to help high-street retailers survive. Tim Godfray, the association’s CEO, said shops with a cultural and educational value should be have their business rates reduced to prevent community hubs from becoming ghost towns.

Businesses that can’t change or adapt should go to the wall. Not to the government for subsidies. That’s just life…

12 comments for “That’s Why Waterstones Are Failing…

  1. October 18, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Books are going the way of all flesh.

  2. October 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Suppose the BBC cookery shows – paid for by everybody – decided that they would only drive business to Sainsburys and refused to give details of independent producers or any other supermarket, would this be a reasonable way for it to conduct itself? (The BBC was previously called out on its refusal to advertise magazines other than its own).

    Suppose the NHS said that it would tie up an on-line prescriptions deal only with Boots and not any other pharmacist, would that be a fair use of its near-monopoly position?

    Suppose HMRC put a link to a very large accountants and said “to file your tax return, sign up with this firm” would that be reasonable or would it be the state disadvantaging all the other accountancy firms in the market?

    The issue here is not the tie-in; it is that one of the partners is a state agent and using that position to deliver an audience which it has not built but gets by virtue of its state-aided near monopoly.

    • Steve W
      October 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Beautifully put Raft Girl.

    • October 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      The NHS already does a similar prescriptions deal – take my local doctor’s surgery; it sends them direct to the nearest ASDA for collection.

      You can still pick them up if you’d rather & get them filled elsewhere, of course.

      And like it or not, Amazon HAS built that market. It’s the biggest gorilla in the jungle already.

  3. Chuckles
    October 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I would have to ask why they are doing it if they are not getting any money from the ‘re-directs’?

    Seems like a golden opportunity for Mr. Daunt at Waterstones or any other interested party to start the biffing at £1 a year or so, and let’s see what the traffic will bear?

    That said, the whole thing reads like a scene out of a Jasper Fforde novel.

  4. October 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Post Office in ASDA too – jury’s out on this one.

  5. Robert Edwards
    October 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    For too long, book chains have played a disgraceful game. If a publisher wishes a book or author to enjoy a prominent display in a particular store, then they must pay for it – in cash. Likewise, the trite little reviews which are thoughtfully provided. Further, the discounts demanded by book chains – of up to 60% – virtually guarantee that only extremely large publishers, promoting household names, can afford to deal with them.

    So, tough shit; if the purpose of the book trade is to get people to read (and it is a depressing statistic that 15% of the population buy 85% of the books)then Waterstones should just suck it up and get on with it. As things stand, it can take two weeks for a book ordered at Waterstone’s to actually arrive at the store where it is ordered. Further, they should ensure that their staff are knowledgable, motivated and keen. All too often, they are not.

    Elsewhere (USA, Scandinavia, mainland Europe) the book business seems to be thriving…

    However, I take Woar’ point; follow the money!

    • Jono
      October 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

      So much wrong in this post, hard to know where to begin. 1) Publishers shared marketing costs when books were chosen for certain slots, but could not ‘buy’ a position say as Book of teh Month. Anyway, these costs are no longer shared, and local decisions much more relevant. 2) The handwritten reviews were never paid for – that’s an urban myth. 3)Plenty of small publishers seem to find a way to work with Waterstone’s – plenty more than you will see in WHS! 4) It can also take 24 hours for a book to arrive – it depends on the book and the source. 5) 4,000+ staff across the UK – most are knowledgable, motivated and keen – more so than ever of late. Sorry if this is not your experience, but give them another try. 6) USA etc thriving? Um, really?

  6. October 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Waterstone’s have just done a deal with Kobo to sell the Kobo E-reader in their shops. They’ve been crowing about how it’s cheaper than the Kindle and holds more books. They’re already in direct competition with Amazon.

    I think Waterstone’s are going to have a fit if the British Library extends this to other digital publishers, so we can all borrow books rather than buy them.

    We can all just log on to the British Library rather than calling in the shop.

    The good thing about electronic versions is that you’ll never hear ‘someone else has it till next week’. They just beam another copy to your computer.

    It’ll kill local libraries, but they’re getting shut down anyway by council spite.

    None of this bothers me in the least, as a writer. My books go onto all the outlets I can find.

  7. DB
    October 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

    From Waterstone’s Twitter feed this morning:

    @Waterstones waterstone’s
    Interesting stuff from Michael Moore (@MMFlint) on @BBCNewsnight last night – his biog Here Comes Trouble is out now: bit.ly/niSQLQ

    Thanks for the editorial comment, Waterstone’s. I think I’ll get my books elsewhere.

  8. LJH
    October 20, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Amazon sells the obscure minority interest books which Waterstones would not, to my door however remotely I may live.

  9. Ian Turner
    October 25, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Waterstones Support is Shite! Front-line support is your sales team. Waterstones are shite!

    Its True.

Comments are closed.