Readersforum's Blog

January 21, 2012

Women writers dominate Waterstones 11 list

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:30 am

Eowyn Ivey

By Charlotte Williams

Eight female novelists have made the Waterstones 11 2012 selection, with three novels each from the Random House and Hachette stables among the line-up for the second year of the promotion for debuts.

HarperCollins has two novels on the list, with one each from Simon & Schuster, Atlantic and Pan Macmillan. The novels were chosen by a Waterstones selection committee- chaired by publisher liaison manager Janine Cook -from nearly 100 publisher submissions, with the promotion free of charge to enter and take part in.

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December 30, 2011

Shelf life in hard times: The book folk who wrote glorious chapters in 2011

From digital wizards to library champions…

By Liz Thomson

James Daunt

Think long-term. That’s one of the mantras of the man who left JP Morgan to launch a business that combined his twin passions, travel and reading. It was 1990, Britain was in a recession but, within five years, Daunt Books had turned over its first million. Now, 21 years later, with five much-admired shops doing nicely, James Daunt has accepted the challenge of turning around Waterstone’s, bought for £53m from HMV by a Russian billionaire who was a regular at Daunts Holland Park.

It’s assumed that Alexander Mamut is also thinking long-term, for there’s much for Daunt to do as new MD at the beleaguered 330-store chain. In private hands, Waterstone’s is no longer required to issue trading statements so evidence about Christmas performance will be anecdotal. With Ottakar’s gone (bought by HMV and absorbed into Waterstone’s before it went into freefall) and Borders bankrupt, Waterstone’s is Britain’s only dedicated bookselling chain.

So much rests on Daunt’s shoulders. In 2012, we can expect to see him launch a full digital offer, including an e-reader – probably a version of the Nook, a success for Barnes & Noble in the US. It’s also likely we’ll see store closures, though Daunt will aim to minimise them. But there are too many branches, many in locales that don’t work. However, the reinvention of Waterstone’s has already begun: gone are three-for-twos, the crass advertising, the one-size-fits-all promotions. Homogeneity is out, individuality in, as trust and autonomy are returned to branch managers. If all goes well, by this time next year, Waterstone’s should be as exciting and intoxicating as it was in its 1980s heyday.

Faber & Faber

While it’s no longer possible to love the House of Eliot unconditionally – the music, film and drama lists are all much diminished – Faber is still a beacon among publishers, as much for what it has become (the flagship of the independent publishing community) as for what it publishes. Stephen Page, who took the helm a decade ago, has charted a careful course in difficult weather, not rushing headlong into digital but awaiting the right device, the right partner, the right project – see Touch Press. He has chosen well.

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November 11, 2011

Hardbacks thrown a lifeline by Daunt

James Daunt

11.11.11 | Benedicte Page and Lisa Campbell

Publishers are rethinking their format strategies as Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt’s avowed fondness for the hardback creates an impetus away from paperback-first publication.

Daunt has spoken publicly about his wish to champion hardback editions, with publishers deeming his attitude a welcome change from the dominant trend of recent years.

The pressures on the hardback market have manifested themselves once again in 2011, with hardback fiction sales falling 7% in the first six months of 2011 according to Nielsen BookScan data, whereas paperback fiction has fallen 4%. Meanwhile, analysis of BookScan’s Top 5,000 bestseller list for October saw spending on hardback books down  3% year on year, with fiction sales down 7% and non-fiction down 20%. Industry figures have cited both the economic downturn and the shift to e-books among the factors behind the figures.

But Daunt’s support for the format is giving publishers new confidence. Vintage publisher Dan Franklin said: “James is a hardback man and he’s about the only person who can sell them.”

An independent publisher, who preferred to speak anonymously, confirmed that it was “reviewing all our fiction formats next year” after being given the news by Waterstone’s fiction buyer Chris White that the hardback was in favour, adding: “It is welcome news for publishers.”

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October 15, 2011

British Library attacked for Amazon link

Filed under: Libraries — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:03 am

The British Library

By Benedicte Page

The British Library has come under fire from booksellers for including a link to online giant Amazon.co.uk on entries in its public online catalogue. The catalogue lists more than 13 million items in the British Library’s collection, detailing the library’s cataloguing details in each case, together with general information on each book. There is also a final field, “This item in Amazon.co.uk”, on each record. This field links directly to the relevant page on Amazon, where the book can be bought. If the title is not among Amazon’s stock, the page offers “More titles to consider” instead.

A spokesperson for the British Library said it was currently piloting a link to Amazon on its Integrated Catalogue “with the aim of providing users with the choice of an alternative method of obtaining a title if, for some reason, it is not available in the Library’s Reading Rooms.”

Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt criticised the development, saying: “It’s disappointing to say the least that a very British institution is driving readers away from local libraries and high street bookshops. In an environment where high street booksellers and libraries face huge pressures, it is a shame that the British Library choose to give their endorsement to one aggressively commercial organisation.”

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October 3, 2011

Waterstone’s boss brands Amazon ‘utterly ruthless’

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:52 pm

Mr Daunt is implementing a turnaround plan at Waterstone's after it was bought by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut in the summer. Photo: Clara Molden

The new boss of Waterstone’s has described Amazon.co.uk as a “dispiriting” place to shop and said that the business tactics used by the online retailer are “utterly utterly ruthless”.

By James Hall

James Daunt, the managing director of the country’s biggest high street book chain, said that 13 years after its UK launch Amazon now sells almost exactly the same number of books as Waterstone’s.

“Unless you are offering more to customers and are doing it better than Amazon you are going to lose,” said Mr Daunt in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

However, the retail executive, who joined Waterstone’s in June, argued that Amazon is a “really dispiriting” place to buy books as people who shop on the website are “denying themselves the pleasure of browsing in a bookshop”.

Amazon launched in the UK in 1998, selling over 1.4 million books and offering prices that were up to 40pc below high street prices. It has since launched the Kindle, an e-reader that allows people to download digital books.

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September 1, 2011

Waterstone’s ends 3-for-2 book offers

Filed under: Retail — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 9:13 am

3-for-2 no more ... Waterstone's longstanding offer has been withdrawn. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

High-street chain abandons influential sales promotion after a decade.

By Alison Flood

Waterstone’s, Britain’s biggest bookseller, is ending its long running three-for-two promotion, which has been a key plank in the company’s marketing effort for more than a decade.

The decision follows the sale of the chain to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, and the appointment of independent bookseller James Daunt as managing director in June.

Daunt, owner of the seven-store chain Daunt Books, had previously said the three-for-two deal “goes completely against the grain of how I like buying books”, telling the Bookseller magazine in May – before his new role at Waterstone’s was announced – that “we don’t despoil our books by putting stickers on them. We don’t use price as a marketing tool.”

The 296-store Waterstone’s business is now said to be looking at introducing money-off deals for individual books from September, instead of the blanket three-for-two, either pricing campaign books at £5, or introducing a “staggered” offer for paperbacks at £3, £5 and £7.

The news was greeted positively by a book trade that has largely welcomed the change to Waterstone’s ownership.

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August 16, 2011

Publishers “lax” on physical quality of books – Daunt

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 12:06 pm

James Daunt

| By Lisa Campbell

Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt has accused publishers of being “lax” in not paying enough attention to the physical quality of books while warning bricks and mortar bookshops will not survive unless they are good enough.

Speaking about “The Future of the Book” on BBC Radio 4’s “The World At One” programme today [15th August], Daunt said publishers need to “re-examine some of the basics of their industry” to ensure the physical book survives in an increasingly digital world.

He said: “Do the publishing houses face challenges particularly in the digital world where territorial rights and copyright are clearly much more difficult to enforce? Yes. Do I think publishers need to re-examine some of the basics of their industry to get that right? [Yes] For example, I think that the attention to the physical quality of the book has been lax. They have not recognised that this is as important as it is.”

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August 8, 2011

Mamut: Waterstone’s ‘important for UK’

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 4:47 pm

08.08.11 | By Graeme Neill

Alexander Mamut

Waterstone’s new owner Alexander Mamut has described the chain as “the last significant player in the UK” and claimed the bookseller’s continued existence was “important for UK society”.

The publicity-shy billionaire was interviewed for a piece on Waterstone’s intranet, which was obtained by The Bookseller. Mamut has only issued two short press statements since he was first linked to buying Waterstone’s in January. However, the article is low on specifics in terms of his own plans for the business.

Mamut said there was “a massive amount of work to be done” following his acquisition of the chain. He said: “If we can make a turnaround, improve everything, have good books properly displayed, a good atmosphere, good recommendations [with] marketing and investment of course, then I think we can compete with a company named Amazon.com. I can’t imagine that life can be replaced with a computer universe. I can’t accept it.”

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June 29, 2011

James Daunt’s Difficult Task: Remake Waterstone’s, But In Whose Image?

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 3:28 pm

By Philip Downer

Waterstone's MD James Daunt has a truly difficult task ahead

When entertainment and record shop group HMV sold Waterstone’s to Alexander Mamut last month, the big surprise wasn’t the buyer, or the price -– it was the appointment of James Daunt as Managing Director of the newly independent business.

Daunt has made his name as the owner of Daunt Books, a small chain of shops in some of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods –- Notting Hill, Hampstead, Chelsea. The flagship store in Marylebone is one of the world’s great bookshops, combining the feel of an Edwardian library with the title choice and presentation of expert booksellers. Daunt Books is stable, profitable and much-admired.  But its founder’s early experience at JP Morgan must have asserted itself; although Daunt has been scathing about Waterstone’s and multiple retail in the past, the opportunity to reinvent British bookselling’s last chain standing was too tempting to pass up.

Daunt doesn’t take over at Waterstone’s until next month, and –- aside from restating his commitment to the printed book -– he’s kept his strategy under wraps so far. But there will be plenty waiting in his in-tray:

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