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Waterstones Closes OverDrive-Powered eBookstore, Hands Customers to Kobo

25818725655_4cfed49fa3_hFor as long as UK bookseller Waterstones sold Kindle hardware, it also ran its own ebookstore where it sold Epub and audiobooks through an OverDrive-powered ebookstore. But then the Kindle displays were chucked last October, and now the ebook section of the Waterstones website is also on the scrapheap.

Waterstones customers are reporting on MobileRead, and The Bookseller confirms, that the retailer disabled its ebookstore on Monday morning.

The ebooks are gone, and soon the customers' accounts will follow. Waterstones informed its customers by email that their accounts will soon transfer over to Kobo. The email is embedded at the end of this post, and the text is largely echoed on a help page on the Waterstones website.

Kobo has released the usual bland statement, citing CEO Michael Tamblyn as saying: “We are pleased to be working with Waterstones, where we can help a great print retailer by supporting their customers who also love to read digitally. We look forward to ensuring that customers who have built e-book libraries with Waterstones will be able to enjoy them in the future with Kobo.”

And so another bit player has sold out, and handed their customers to Kobo just like Blinkbox, Sony, and other also-rans. This leaves the UK consumer ebook market to Amazon, Kobo, and Amazon, with Apple and Google somewhere in 4th and 5th place.

B&N of course pulled out earlier this year, leaving its customers to the tender mercies of Saisnbury’s.


Dear XXX,

The Waterstones eBooks store is closing, but we have partnered with Kobo to ensure that you will still be able to access your library of eBook titles purchased with us.

On 14th June 2016 we will send you an email with a personalised link to transfer your eBooks to Kobo.

You will also be able to access your current library on from now until Monday, 13th June 2016, to ensure we do not interrupt your reading experience.

About Kobo

Rakuten Kobo Inc. is one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services, empowering booklovers to read more. With Kobo, you’ll enjoy easy, instant access to their eBookstore of over 5 million of the world’s best eBooks that can be read anywhere, on any device. Plus, you’ll earn Kobo Super Points rewards with every purchase.

So, from the team at Waterstones, we want to extend our thanks to you for using our service and we wish you a happy reading future with Rakuten Kobo.

Important Notice

If you are happy to move your library, you don’t need to do anything. In doing so, we will assume you are happy for us to share your Waterstones library with Kobo, so they can provide us with your personalised link to take you through to the library transfer process

If you do NOT wish to transfer your library to Rakuten Kobo, please click here.

If you do not receive the link to transfer your library on or soon after, Tuesday 14th June 2016, then please visit our Contact Us pages to get in touch.

Please check the Frequently Asked Questions page if you would like more information.

 image by garryknight

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Alain May 23, 2016 um 1:35 pm

Sad to see yet another provider exiting the market after the likes of Sony, Blinkbox and B&N transferred their customers to Kobo.
However Waterstones' digital strategy has always felt a little disjointed to me.
I can remember them selling third party e-readers many years ago (before I started being interested in e-readers myself), then announcing they would launch their own e-reader (citing the Nook as a positive example of what could be achieved….), then switching to selling Kindles in-stores but Epubs online (!), etc

I would personally have loved to see them partner up with a provider like Tolino to offer something different to the UK market.
Obviously they will have based their decision on some detailed analysis but completely exiting the e-book market seems like a bold move for a leading UK book retailer.
Even if e-books are not their main focus I would have thought that keeping some sort of presence in that market would have made sense in case things change in the future?

Nate Hoffelder May 23, 2016 um 1:49 pm

They never really had a strategy, no. It was a confusing mess.

Mike Hall May 23, 2016 um 3:25 pm

Does anyone have any idea how many customers are involved? Is it significant?

I must admit that, despite living in the UK and sometimes wandering into Waterstones – less often of late than previously – I never realised they had an on line operation. If I as going to buy books on line why would I go anywhere but Amazon who specialise in it? Especially as experience indicates that most UK B&M retailers are not very good at anything involving IT.

I hope someone has cracked Waterstones DRM – assuming they use it – so that tbeir customers can choose where they go rather than being given no say in the matter.

Mark Williams – The International Indie Author May 24, 2016 um 2:38 am

Back in 2011 my titles were topping the Waterstone’s e-charts and while Kindle was bringing in far more, of course, the Waterstone’s money was not to be sneezed at.

Bear in mind Kindle UK only kicked off in summer 2010 and ebooks were still a novelty and possibly a fad. In early 2011 you could top the Kindle UK charts with 20,000 sales a month.

Daunt only took over at Waterstone’s in May 2011, at which time the Waterstone’s ebook store (it still had a sensible apostrophe back then) was ticking over nicely. There was almost zero indies instore (I think it was Gardner’s supplied then – OverDrive came later) which meant the handful that were in could do well.

Daunt took over an effectively bankrupt bookstore chain (backed by Russian money) with a token ebook store and rumour kicked off about a B&N Nook partnership. Clearly at that time Daunt was hedging his bets. No-one was sure what way the ebook wind would blow, but B&N’s straddling physical and digital seemed as a good a bet as any.

The Waterstone’s store sold iRiver and Sony ebook readers and displayed them quite prominently.

Then came the surprise Kindle partnership – presumably an offer Daunt couldn’t refuse to pre-empt the Nook partnership. Why Daunt took it is anyone’s guess, but I suspect Daunt understood the long-term conflict that B&N was later to face – that you can’t cannibalize your physical stores by promoting ebooks.

Under the original model that wouldn’t have been an issue, because the ebooks and print books were all from the same supplier base. No problem. Ebooks and print books sold in tandem.

The phenomenal rise of self-publishing tipped over that apple-cart, and instead of ebooks complementing the print titles, ebooks began to cannibalize print.

B&N exacerbated the problem with the self-pub portal, making it easier to sell on the Nook platform (back then Smashwords was the only realistic alternative route into Nook).

Daunt possibly had the foresight to see that coming. After all, at least one indie in the Waterstone’s ebook store – no names mentioned – was outselling the biggest names in publishing and was the most searched for brand in store for three months solid.

I was disappointed to see the Waterstone’s ebook project effectively shelved. The store remained open, but hidden, and the Kindle partnership was never taken seriously. Kindle devices were never displayed to their best advantage and staff studiously avoided being helpful when customers asked about them.

From public statements in the last year or so it’s clear the ebook store had dwindled to irrelevancy. How much that was market economics and the obviously powerful impact of the Kindle store, and how much deliberate policy by Daunt, is unclear.

By 2013 it was obvious Daunt had no intention of developing the Waterstone’s ebook store and the only surprise since is that he’s kept it open this long.

I suspect Daunt has ideological as well as commercial antipathy towards ebooks, but all credit to him for turning around an all-but bankrupt bookstore chain and now expanding, showing that print bookstores can thrive in the face of ebook and on-line print sales from a far bigger competitor.

Without the burden of the Nook – a valiant attempt by B&N, but one destined to fail because the two arms cannibalized instead of complementing one another – B&N might be in a far stronger position. » Waterstones kaptituliert vor Amazon: eigener E-Book-Store ist offline May 24, 2016 um 4:07 am

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