From Publishing Perspectives:
Last month, Waterstones’ MD James Daunt shocked the world by penning a deal with Amazon to partner with them to supply e-books to the booksellers customers. But he has not done the surprise Kindle deal through gritted teeth, as some have suggested – he’s done it “through having all his teeth taken out.” That’s the view of one senior British publisher.
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The publisher, inevitably speaking off the record as is the norm when it comes to Amazon, continued: “James must be talking to a slightly different bit of Amazon than the one I normally talk to. He knows that the Amazon strategy is an end game for everyone. They are the Death Star, as we know. But James knows that too. This isn’t your Soviet Pact of 1939 [the non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union that ended when Germany invaded Russia]; he’s not prepared to go to war with them, but he can use them as long as he can. This deal is one of the most practical I’ve come across.”
The chain announced last month that it would sell Kindles from the autumn and allow customers to download Kindle titles within its stores, taking a cut on each sale made.
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Many publishers believe customers will simply gravitate to Amazon when they leave the shop, but Daunt points out that since almost everyone already knows about Amazon anyway, “for those who want to use a Kindle, there is now the option to do so through Waterstones.”
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Commenting on the deal, another senior publisher said: “If I were Waterstones, I’d rather tie up with a ruthless devil than an also-ran,” a reference to the abortive deal with Nook. “This is definitely not a solution for Waterstones, but it buys him a little time and, I suppose, also a potential rescuer of the chain should Mamut [Alexander Mamut, the billionaire Russian oligarch who bought the company for £53m last year] get bored with losing money.”
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UK independents feel it will make life more difficult for them, and that it accentuates the need for them to have a credible digital offer. “I think it’s quite a short term move on Waterstones part, and they’ll lose customers to Amazon in the end,” said Sheila o’Reilly at Dulwich Books in south London.
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Like many indies, Davies suffers the frequent indignity of customers using her shop as a free showroom for Amazon. But it went one stage further in her store recently. “A lady came in who said she’d been given a Kindle for Christmas but wasn’t quite sure how to use it. I said to her, ‘Well,Eleanor Davies the first thing you do is put it in a bucket of water…’”
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
One of the frequent memes among both bookstores and publishers is that they’ll “lose customers” if they cooperate with Amazon.
This is a remarkably obtuse view of the world, as if customers were something to be possessed and controlled and somehow lacked independent lives with computers, mass media and new media. Perhaps if a bookstore’s customers were illiterate fools, this might be true, but those wouldn’t be very prolific readers.
One of the key indicators of dysfunctional organizations is the refusal to acknowledge/discuss the biggest problems they face. Don’t booksellers understand they just look stupid to customers if they act like Amazon doesn’t exist? Barnes & Noble is not a perfect organization, but when they introduced the Nook, they featured it front and center in their stores, impossible to miss when you walked in the door.
A saying that grew out of established tech businesses facing disruptive challenges from low-cost competitors was that if you didn’t cannibalize your own business, someone else would to it for you.