UK bookstore chain Waterstones has signed an agreement with Amazon (s AMZN) to sell the Kindle in its roughly 300 stores and “launch new e-reading services.” The news is a blow for Barnes & Noble, which was reportedly working with Waterstones on the Nook’s (s BKS) international debut.
“It is a truly exciting prospect to harness also the respective strengths of Waterstones and Amazon to provide a dramatically better digital reading experience for our customers,” Waterstones managing director James Daunt said in a statement. “The best digital readers, the Kindle family, will be married to the singular pleasures of browsing a curated bookshop. With the combination of our talents we can offer the exceptional customer proposition to which we both aspire.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “Waterstones is the premier high street bookseller and is passionate about books and readers — a dedication that we share deeply. We could never hope for a better partner to bring together digital reading and the physical bookstore.”
Waterstones also plans to refurbish its roughly 300 stores this year, adding “dedicated digital areas, free WiFi access and new coffee shops.”
Barnes & Noble gets cut out
The announcement — with Daunt referring to Kindles as “the best digital readers” — appears to rule out the possibility of Waterstones signing a deal with Barnes & Noble. That partnership has been rumored since last year, and Barnes & Noble is working with UK app developers, but the London Book Fair in April came and went with no news.
Microsoft (s MSFT) invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble’s Nook and college businesses last month and will pay $25 million a year for the first five years to help fuel international expansion.
At an app developers conference in March, Barnes & Noble said it won’t open international stores, but it’s running out of major UK chains to work with: Amazon now has Waterstones, and WH Smith partnered with Kobo last year.
Daunt says customers wanted the Kindle, not the Nook
“We asked ourselves, ‘what do our customers want?’; the answer was the Kindle. Once we’d done that this was self-evidently the best deal,” Daunt told The Bookseller:
Daunt said the two businesses had started talking only ‘relatively recently,’ admitting that he had looked at other options but rejected them. ‘Ultimately, when we thought about it, we had to give the customers what they wanted. And the best device on the market is the Kindle.’