Waterstones and Amazon’s Kindle turn a new chapter!

Here is a very interesting article…!

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter 24 October 2012

Leo Kelion talks to Waterstones’s managing director James Daunt about his company’s relationship with Amazon.

It was the twist no-one saw coming.

After previously describing Amazon as “a ruthless, money-making devil”, Waterstones’s managing director, James Daunt, announced in May that he was teaming up with the US internet store and would sell and promote its Kindle tablets and e-readers in the UK’s premier book chain.

Few predicted a happy ending: “A deal for destruction”, “Strange bedfellows”, and “Waterstones let the fox into the chicken run” exclaimed some of the resulting headlines.

Had the former JP Morgan banker doomed the group less than a year after being appointed as its managing director?

“A world that is totally dominated by Amazon will be a poorer one,” Mr Daunt tells the BBC when asked about the decision.

Jeff Bezos and Kindle Paperwhite e-reader Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos, says his firm sells Kindle e-readers and tablets for break-even prices

“But that is not to say that I don’t think that Amazon is – within the limits of what it does – absolutely fantastic.”

Secret deal

The 49-year-old has already distanced Waterstones from its roots, dropping the apostrophe in its name to the dismay of punctuation campaigners. But the decision to ditch Sony’s e-readers and promote Amazon’s is clearly his most controversial to date.

For someone who has apparently signed his company’s death warrant he appears focused and optimistic about the group’s future, determined to complete a costly refit programme designed to upgrade its 300 stores.

And though he remains tight-lipped about the terms of the Amazon arrangement, he insists the agreement is to his advantage, whatever others suggest.

“I certainly won’t tell you what I’m going to make with Amazon, but what I will freely admit is that we have a commercial business here, and we make sensible commercial decisions.

“I have, rather flippantly, also said: ‘Do I look like a total moron? Because what you’re describing is the behaviour of a total moron.’

“I may be many things, but I don’t think I’m that.”

Model hold Sony e-reader Mr Daunt ditched a previous deal to sell Sony’s e-readers shortly after taking charge

Although the criticisms may have stung, Mr Daunt believes he has made the pragmatic choice. His customers are increasingly reading books on digital devices with Amazon proving their most popular option.

To ignore the phenomenon, he argues, would undermine the bookseller’s relationship with its readers.

“If they choose to read digitally I have to become involved in that game,” he explains, adding that it would be beyond the firm’s resources to develop its own family of tablets and e-readers.

Instead he plans to offer add-on services – allowing visitors the chance to use Kindles to browse Waterstones’s own recommendations and then read them for free while in-store.

“The principle is simple,” he says.

“You are in a bookshop, you can pick up any of these books – you haven’t bought them yet – you can browse them. Until you leave the shop you don’t have to pay for them, and that same principle should apply to a physical device as well as a digital e-book.”

Ultimately he hopes to be able to tailor recommendations to each shop’s location and staff – but even in its basic state the feature won’t be able to launch until technical issues are worked out and publishers sign up.

Hot drinks

Reports have suggested one way Waterstones would make money out of the deal would be to take a cut of each Kindle sale made over its stores’ wi-fi networks. Mr Daunt would not confirm or deny the claim, saying only: “We make money out of everything we sell.”

A potential problem with this model is that once shoppers try out an e-reader – whether its a Kindle, Nook, Kobo or other device – they often browse bookshops’s shelves, make lists of what they want but then buy via the internet at home.

The e-book trend may be inevitable, critics say, but embracing it will only hasten Waterstones’s decline. Mr Daunt suggests they misunderstand his methods.

Cafe W inside Waterstones in Norwich A Norwich branch of Waterstones was one of the first to be fitted with a Cafe W outlet

“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books,” he says.

“I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them.

“But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer – you’re going to spend money in my shops.”

That money won’t necessarily be on books. Waterstones stores are already stocking more stationery, games and puzzles. The next step is to create cafes inside the chain following a successful trial.

“It is literally the booksellers that’s made you the cup of coffee,” he says. “Yes, it’s slightly grubby that you’ve handed over two quid to get that cup of coffee – but it is extremely nice.

“The conversation as you buy your latte is often about the book and it’s a really fantastic thing. And our sales have leapt.”

The move may appall traditionalists, and making space for coffee and Kindles does ultimately mean less for bookshelves. But Mr Daunt says the action is overdue.

“Do we have an awful lot of books in our shops that don’t frankly sell?” he asks.

“Yes, and they actually shouldn’t be there. I do think the shops will have less books, but they will remain absolutely first and foremost physical bookshops.”

Kindle display unit Kindle display units were installed weeks before the launch

Fiction, cookery and biography will stay, he says, but specialised topics, such as law studies, face the chop.

‘Fundamentally unsatisfactory’

At the core of his strategy is the assumption that if his staff make the right picks and provide the right environment, customers will want to spend time in a book-browsing environment.

“I certainly believe that ownership of the physical book does matter,” he adds.

“Whereas that little file embedded in a piece of plastic isn’t pretty to look at. You can’t lend it. You can’t sell it. And you can’t bequeath it to your children.

“Digital is convenient in some situations – travelling, or reading at night when you don’t want to wake the wife.

“But it is also fundamentally unsatisfactory in all sorts of other ways. And that will preserve the physical book as being the majority choice for some foreseeable time, even fiction.”

Whether Waterstones’s next chapter goes as planned will now depend on how much the public are as wedded to the traditional format.

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20046568

Many thanks to the BBC and Leo Kelion for this and to Beattie’s Book Blog where I first saw this article! http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Interesting stuff, eh? 🙂

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Michael Morpurgo & Me!

Strange things have been happening…very strange things. It seems that I am stalking Michael Morpurgo!

9260_433372556719113_86475080_nSince my debut novel was published or should I say born into the world on 30th September, I’ve been lost in a wondrous maelstrom of writing, promotion, marketing, newspaper articles and my first book signings.

To date, I have just had my third author signing event, this time at the huge Waterstones branch in Cardiff. Even though each signing is akin to standing in the sports hall of your school during your final year prom, waiting for someone to pick you to dance, i.e. exhilarating and embarrassing in equal measure – talking to people has been wonderful.

I’d like to thank an especially lovely couple yesterday who bought a copy of White Mountain and were so enthusiastic and full of energy about my book and our shared love of writing, illustrations and fantasy, that I could have chatted to them all day!

But yes, life recently has been a complete whirlwind and something of a surreal dream. Surreal is a good word to describe it, though perhaps unreal is nearer the mark.

We all live, for the most part, little innocuous lives. I certainly have for the last 3o something years. Just a quiet bumbling sort of life, lurching from one mishap into another. Fumbling my way through life while I studiously and anonymously scribble away at my stories, dreaming one day that they will proudly sit upon the bookshelves of my lovely local independent bookshop, Waterstones or WHSmith’s, hopefully next to another great literary work.

We all dream, right?

Well, I know I’m never going to be the astronaut I wanted to be (…er…or space pirate!) and dreams of being a mermaid have slipped away as I’ve grown older (notice I don’t say wiser). But being a writer was always a dream I believed would happen…and eventually it has. All good things come to those that wait, eh?

Anyway, during a rare moment of lucidity, I took a camera with me and popped into some of the local bookshops which are so kindly stocking and supporting my book. What did I find? Well, apart from the indescribable feeling of ACTUALLY seeing your own book on a bookshelf, a feeling I still can’t fully express, one worrying aspect arose…

White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, may be an epic fantasy for the 21st century full of adventure, dark magic, love, loss, friendship and betrayal, but it would also appear that my beloved novel is somewhat of a stalker!

Yes, a STALKER!!!!!

Everywhere I look, White Mountain is determinedly following and sidling up to the wonderful Michael Morpurgo! Yes, my novel is stalking Michael Morpurgo – the illustrious and critically acclaimed writer I have admired for many years who, after the film of his novel ‘War Horse’, is also in great demand!

There, in every shop I visited, sat my novel sitting proudly next to one of his. I can’t tell you the thrill of that!

So…I would like to take the opportunity of not only thanking Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester (www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury (www.yellow-lightedbookshop.co.uk) and Stroud Children’s Bookshop…but I would like to thank a total stranger who is also a bit of a hero for me, the multi-talented, Michael Morpurgo!

Thank you, Michael. Even though you don’t know me from Adam, Eve, or a dude called Bob, my novel and I want to thank you from the bottom of our dragon fuelled hearts!

*deep sigh*

Life can be hard as iron, but sometimes, just sometimes…it can be utterly lovely! 😀 xx

Make Hay not war! …A tribute to Hay, Ray and Sir Terry!

I’ll admit that my expectations of the Hay Festival were high…and I was NOT disappointed!

Returning home last night, at nearly 11pm, utterly exhausted and elated with a boot full of books, I found myself in a blissful state of delirium. What an experience! Not just the festival itself, with its Tibetan-like rainbow flags (perhaps fluttering in homage to the God of Books), its eco credentials and bohemian artsy feel, but the whole town and how each compliments the other. The entire vibe of the place…this little idyll, this heaven for book lovers nestled amongst the most breathtaking landscapes. Just bliss!

In a time of grim realities, economic meltdown, political confusion, conflict and war, to be immersed in such a haven is nothing short of magical. There are so few places where the written word is so celebrated. The minute my writer friend and I stepped foot in the town, you could almost feel a palpable tingle in the air. Everyone was there for the same reason…an unbridled love of books.

The rain, thankfully not as heavy as predicted, couldn’t dampen our spirits. So with twitching debit cards we started our foray into Hay’s wonderfully eclectic bookshops.

My advice for any visiting Hay-On-Wye? Bring a backpack…you can squeeze more books into it and leave your hands free to hold more!

Heading from one bookshop to another, via a cappuccino and slice of coffee cake, my growing rucksack and I quickly learned the ‘squeeze-squeeze-side shuffle’ needed in tight spaces and stacked shelves.

Amongst my prized buys of the day – a beautiful first edition 1866 green leather-bound collection of Lord Tennyson poems with gold-edged hand cut pages, gold ‘Arts & Crafts’ embossing on the front and back AND…(discovered only this morning as I took delight in placing all my books on the correct bookcases)…gorgeous illustrations by Hunt, Millais & Gabriel Dante Rossetti, the founders and geniuses of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement!

Wow! I can’t believe I’ve found such a treat for the senses for a mere £6.50! What a find…now you don’t get that from a kindle!

My other highlight? Well, after some serious trawling round Hay, we headed back to the festival and its billowing tents for the main event, an hour-long talk from Sir Terry Pratchett! What a thrill! We jostled our way into the Barclays Pavillion and settled down to watch and listen to a master of the fantasy genre. A real privilege.

Terry spoke candidly about his work and life. Poignant but always humourous and sharply witted, the hour regrettably flew past, despite the continuous munching of the man mountain sitting in front of me and the irritating fidgeting of the teeny girls next to me whose constant moving kept rocking my chair and making me sea-sick!

Of course, during the course of day, the news also broke of the sad passing of another great author, the astonishing Ray Bradbury, whose seminal novels including Fahrenheit 451, have been incredibly influential and inspiring to readers and writers alike. Terry Pratchett himself commented on the sad event, saying what a wonderful writer and what a lovely person he was.

Together with the loss of Anne McCaffrey earlier in the year, it has been a time of literary loss, particularly in the fantasy and science fiction genres, but the legacy such writers and their astonishing body of work leaves behind, ensures their immortality in the pantheon of great writers and artists.

After the fabulous talk, we inevitably took the shuttle back into town for some more book grazing. Hay, rather splendidly, leaves many of the bookshops open into the evening.

We wandered over to the castle, a beautiful ruin of a place, and poured over yet more shelves of delights before reluctantly having to say goodbye to a truly wondrous little place.

May the sun never set on you Hay. I shall definitely be returning for a longer stay!

I raise a glass to the glory of Hay, Ray and Sir Terry…marvels all!

See you next year! 😀

****

Tragically, Sir Terry Pratchett lost his long struggle against Alzheimer’s on the 12th March 2015, he will be greatly missed by all. I for one, shall think of him when I visit the Hay Festival again this year. A literary giant in his own life time, one of our brightest lights has been extinguished, may he shine on in the heavens and give Death a run for his money! xxx

😦