The story is rather simply. Waterstones will sell the Kindle and Kindle ebooks to customers both in store and on their website. And that's about all anyone knows about it until September.
In fact, given the long delay between today's announcement and September, I would bet that the deal is either still under negotiation or it was just finalized. At best, the ink is still drying.
On a side note, a few weeks back I wrote that the B&N-Waterstones deal was taking too long so it had likely fallen through. I wish I had taken myself more seriously, because it looks like that was right around the time that Watersones started seriously talking with Amazon.
According to James Daunt, the managing director for Waterstones, "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."While the B&N talks are rumored to have started back in November 2011, the negotiations with Amazon had started only "relatively recently".As he explains it, "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."
Daunt spoke to The Bookseller this morning, but he didn't offer any new details which weren't mentioned in the press release or video.
And yes, this does come as a shock. It was only days ago that Daunt described Amazon as "a ruthless money-making devil", and that's not something you expect to hear someone say about their future partner. Not that I would call today's turnaround duplicitous; it would be more accurate to say that Waterstones decided that if you can't beat'em, join'em.
The shock also comes from the faact that everyone assumed that a partnership with B&N was a done deal Waterstones would sell the Nook and their own ebooks. That deal would have made sense – as a US only retailer B&N was no threat to Waterstones’ retail business. Amazon is a dire threat.
While I can see why Waterstones signed their name in blood, what's in it for Amazon is less obvious. They already have a dominant position in the UK ebook market and they're doing a brisk trade in Kindles.
While this deal will increase their sales, I think the real reason Amazon inked this deal was more to keep competitors out of Waterstones. The increase in ebook sales from customers buying in Waterstones bookshops was likely just icing on the cake.
A bookstore with a knowledgeable staff would have been a boost for any of the majors or even the minor ebook retailers, so denying that boost to competition might be a good idea.
Speaking of which, B&N wasn't Waterstones' first failed deal. Rumor has it that at one point Waterstones wanted to go it alone. They almost signed a deal with txtr to build their ebookstore on txtr's platform. Any ereader attached to it would have carried the Waterstones brand but they likely would have been developed by a third party.
It's probably a good thing that the txtr deal fell through; I'm not sure Waterstones would have the same success on their own as they are now going to have with Amazon.