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Waterstones CEO: Amazon partnership great, except for the “bear traps”

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As UK bookstore chain Waterstones prepares to start selling Kindles in its stores next month, CEO James Daunt admitted that the chain’s Amazon (s AMZN) partnership has been a bit fraught.

“There are substantial difficulties for us around working with our major competitor,” Daunt said at the Independent Publishers Guild Digital Quarterly Meeting on Tuesday, according to The Bookseller. “But we think we have an agreement which protects some of the most significant bear traps that sit there, and there are some major upsides for us.”

Starting in October, Waterstones will sell the new Kindle models in its stores, including the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, which are making their debut in the UK for the first time. (Amazon sells devices in other UK stores as well, not just Waterstones).

The Waterstones/Amazon partnership, announced in May, baffled many (including me) who don’t understand what Waterstones gets out of the deal. The chain does get a cut from the devices it sells, but it only gets a share of ebook sales when they’re purchased directly over its in-store WiFi network.

At yesterday’s IPG event, Daunt revealed a few more details about Waterstones’ Amazon partnership. “Waterstones-specific Kindle screensavers, bestseller lists and a Read For Free offer are among the plans,” The Bookseller reports.

The Read For Free program is presumably similar to Barnes & Noble’s “Read In Store” program, which lets Nook owners read Nook books free in B&N stores for up to an hour a day. A Waterstones spokesman told me that the books available to read free in-store are dependent on publisher negotiations and that the amount of free reading time is yet to be decided.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user [svetara].

7 Responses to “Waterstones CEO: Amazon partnership great, except for the “bear traps””

  1. Seems like Waterstone’s are offering a real world browsing options for anyone to then buy from amazon whilst in the store? Perhaps their profits will only now come from stationery and moshi monsters?

  2. Andrew Rhomberg

    One also has to wonder how sustainable this partnerships is. What does Waterstones do when the alliance no longer benefits it. Does it have a Plan B in preparation and is Waterstones just buying time? Maybe they are just trying to focus in printed books and want to dominate whatever remains of printed book sales (10-30% of total market by 2020?)

  3. I don’t think this works out well for waterstones, as unlike Barns & Noble or Borders when it was around, you don’t have a coffee shop in the store in which people would sit down and read (i.e. no reason to treat waterstones as a destination.

  4. “The books available to read free in-store are dependent on publisher negotiations and that the amount of free reading time is yet to be decided”

    So then why partner with the publishing industries public enemy number 1?

    I can understand why the nook deal may have fallen through. But what really makes this decision bizarre is the realization that Daunt could have easily partnered with Apple.