Waterstones is the largest bookstore chain the United Kingdom and they have proclaimed that Kindle sales had “disappeared to all intents and purposes.”
James Daunt is the CEO of Waterstones and many people in the bookselling industry were surprised when he forged a relationship with Amazon in 2012 to sell Kindle e-reader. A year prior, in a series of interviews, Daunt spoke of Amazon as the “enemy” and “a ruthless, money-making devil”.
Daunt lamented that his predecessors did not develop their own e-reader while the market was unsaturated and not consolidated. Waterstones sold lackluster devices that did not allow customers to buy books right on the readers. When James took over the company his first reaction was to scrap all the woeful readers they currently stocked and made new relationships with Amazon to bring in a big brand name.
One of the reasons why Waterstones is seeing a decline in e-reader sales is because British consumers are still enamored with print. Over £2.2 billion was spent on hardcovers and paperbacks in 2013, compared to the £300 million that was generated by e-books. James Daunt told the Financial Times that the resurgence in popularity of tangible books was due to Waterstones refurbishing some of its 290 shops.
I think this was an interesting time for Waterstones to proclaim that Kindle sales were dead. The five year contract to sell the readers and tablets expires this year and this could be used as leverage to get a better deal or to get out of dealing with Amazon completely. The die hard Kindle users tend to buy the devices online from Amazon when pre-orders become available for new product releases, such as the Kindle Voyage.
If Waterstones were to get out of the Kindle contract, likely they would secure a number of deals with other e-reader companies such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and the Tolino Alliance.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.