Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In launch materials for Amazon Source, the program to allow independent bookstores to sell kindle readers and ebooks, Amazon highlights that it was the partnership with Waterstones that delivered the infrastructure now available to independent bookstores.
When it was originally announced that Waterstones were to sell Kindle devices, Managing Director James Daunt was widely criticized. He maintained at the time, and would presumably continue to do so now, that working with Amazon was driven by pragmatism. The prior relationship with Sony was going no-where and Waterstones didn’t have the financial backing, and did not want to attempt, to take on Kindle with a competitive device. Yet they also did not want to close the door to revenue opportunity from the consumer transition to digital reading. Better surely to therefore be in a relationship with the market leader, than to be nowhere?
The launch of Source seems to have been met with skepticism and derision by independent booksellers. Even though it’s not yet been announced if Source will roll-out internationally I’ve read quotes from UK independents suggesting that the moral issues of working with Amazon, and concern over the impact on physical sales, are reasons they would not support the initiative.
Yet Waterstones continues to sell Kindle devices and, I note, is running a click and collect promotion for Kindle devices on Waterstones.com, in one of only four lead carousel spaces (at the exact time of posting this, Waterstones.com is down for “essential maintenance”). The allocation of this valuable marketing space to Kindle is surely proof that the relationship must be generating valuable revenue.
I doubt very much that Waterstones sale of Kindle devices has accelerated the adoption of ebooks at the expense of print sales. Instead I suspect it has brought people into the store who would otherwise have bought the device anyway, online from Amazon. I’d therefore think that independent bookstores should consider Source not perhaps as as ‘olive branch’ from Amazon as has been suggested, but at least as a pragmatic opportunity to earn incremental revenue and increase footfall.