I have to say, this notion didn’t once enter my mind when I thought about Waterstones options, not because it’s a bad idea (far from it) but because I never thought Waterstones and its management would even consider it. It’s fairly radical and the implications are pretty dramatic:
UK bookseller Waterstones is to sell Amazons Kindle book-reader and launch other Kindle digital services.Waterstones says the deal will dovetail with its current store refurbishment scheme, which is creating dedicated areas for digital books, free wireless internet and new coffee shops.
If I was to sum it up I would say that it indicates Waterstones does not believe it can compete with Amazon in the digital space and has decided to concentrate on the print market.
Is that a good decision? Or is it making the same mistake as Borders made in allowing Amazon run its website so many years ago?
Alternatively it could be very seen as a sensible decision. It relieves Waterstones of the burden of competing with Amazon on more fronts and crucially reduces the need for a huge capital outlay on technology R&D (the kind B&N has committed itself to). It also enables the management to concentrate on making the stores profitable and on selling print books (still the company’s core product). It makes the decision about selling Amazon’s print books easier (I would think that’s a big one for authors). It probably presents more opportunities than it closes off for Waterstones in other words.
If I was to think of one single reason for the move being a good though I would say it is this, it allows Waterstones to stand still and observe for a little longer. The value of inaction is often underestimated and right now when the ebook retail and distribution space is changing rapidly and requires such a huge investment, this move brings revenue, options but most crucially of all, time to just see what happens while rebuilding the core bookselling business.
Impressed by the cojones if nothing else!