After various closures, takeovers and collapses, Waterstone’s is the last major specialist bookseller standing in the UK. Other shops, such as WH Smith and the ubiquitous supermarkets still sell books, but their selection is far more limited. But like a lot of retailers, Waterstone’s isn’t doing quite as well as it might, with its trade being eaten away by those supermarkets (for the more popular items) and the almighty Amazon (for everything else). They’ve been trying hard over the years, with those 3 for 2 offers and assorted discounts, but beating Amazon on price wasn’t really an option.
They’re now under new ownership and new management, and changes are coming. First, the 3 for 2 deals are going, to be replaced by simple discounts on book prices. This is more convenient if you just want one book, but removes the incentive to browse and maybe discover an unexpected treasure. It also puts them right up against Amazon’s pricing model, which could be interesting.
Waterstone’s and Amazon used to get along quite nicely – in what seemed a quite bizarre deal, for many years Waterstone’s web presence was an Amazon store, but that deal came to an end, and they’ve been doing their own web thing for some years now.
The previous management tried to get in early on the eBook thing – you might recall me buying a Sony Reader from them three years ago. Unfortunately, despite continuing to sell the devices in their shops, they never quite got the point about pricing of eBooks, which meant that I bought next to nothing for the device, and was quite happy to sell it and use the proceeds to buy my Amazon Kindle.
Well, it seems that the new management, having noticed that US book chain Barnes and Noble seem to be doing reasonable business with their Nook e-reader, have decided that they want some of that, and will be developing their own device, which they’re expecting to start selling next year.
They’re also putting out a reader app for Android devices, which may get them some more business.
Interesting developments – while I’m unlikely to buy their device, a bit of competition can’t be bad. And if it helps keep actual bookshops open, I’m all for it.
 Like a lot pf people, I’ve been in two minds about these – sometimes it’s a struggle to find that third book that you actually want, but other times it’s a chance to try something you didn’t know you wanted.