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Waterstones CEO Slams Amazon, Reaffirms Plans For e-Reader, The 'Windle'

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It’s no surprise a company still reliant on old-school book stores for revenues would have a word or two to say about Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), but comments from James Daunt, the CEO of Waterstones, have taken the company’s rivalry for UK book business to another level, as he revealed more details about its plans for its own e-reader device.

Daunt, an ex-banker and himself an independent bookseller (there are six Daunt bookstores today), was brought in earlier this year to resuscitate Waterstone’s by its new Russian owner, Alexander Mamut. He puts a big premium on the role of a physical bookstore in not only promoting reading, but in making the experience of choosing books into something useful and engaging. In contrast, Amazon, he says, is really only about one thing: making money.

They never struck me as being a sort of business in the consumer’s interest. They’re a ruthless, money-making devil,” he told the Independent in an interview.

Daunt also reiterated the company’s plans to launch an e-reader device, something we wrote about several months ago. He jokingly referred to the device as the Windle, Waterstone’s answer to the Kindle. But he did not reveal any more details on who its device partners might be, or when we might see it hit the shelves (so to speak).

Some have speculated that Waterstone’s would team up with an existing e-reader maker — even one tied to a bookseller already, like Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), which could see Waterstone’s repackage the U.S.-only Nook for a UK audience.

Not clear yet whether that’s actually a possible scenario, but Daunt made it clear that he looks up to B&N for some leadership on how to sell an e-reader that can compete effectively with Amazon. Again, it goes back to the power of physical versus online stores, and leveraging a bricks-and-mortar business to help sell the device:

“We’re working on the Barnes & Noble approach,” he told the newspaper. “They’ve embedded…the Nook within their bookshops and have succeeded in taking market share from the Kindle.”

2 Responses to “Waterstones CEO Slams Amazon, Reaffirms Plans For e-Reader, The 'Windle'”

  1. The devil? Amazon brought down pricing for…consumers. B & N brought them down prior to that. Indies always had high prices and didn’t move off of that until…B & N and now Amazon. So who is the reader’s friend? Amazon. In our business producing and selling audiobooks and eBooks once again Amazon is the consumer’s friend–selling our eBooks on Kindle for $.99 to $2.99 (and we get $.35 to $2.00 every 30 days by WIRE and on audiobooks on 15% (with no physical CDs) every 90 days–and the consumer gets the audiobooks from $1.95 to $4.89 versus $5 in retail stores. Again, who is the consumer’s friend? Amazon. Indies aren’t the “devil.” But they do have the highest prices for consumers and the least variety available.