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Waterstones is Pulling Kindles From Stores – What Took Them So Long?

20063857194_a93f1b20ce_hThe Bookseller published a story this morning that I have been expecting to read for most of a year now. Waterstones is breaking up with Amazon:

Waterstones is removing Amazon’s Kindle devices from many of it stores as sales “continue to be pitiful”.

The company’s m.d James Daunt said there had been no sign of a “bounce” in Kindle sales, so the company was “taking the display space back” to use for physical books instead.

He told The Bookseller: “Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops. It feels very much like the life of one of those inexplicable bestsellers; one day piles and piles, selling like fury; the next you count your blessings with every sale because it brings you closer to getting it off your shelves forever to make way for something new. Sometimes, of course, they ‘bounce’ but no sign yet of this being the case with Kindles.”

Given that Daunt had made similar statements in January, the only surprise today was that it took so long for this story to come out.

And even if Daunt hadn’t made those statements, the ebook market has shifted from ereader-centric to being app-centric.  That trend is so well-established that even the WSJ noticed in August just how many people read on their phones.

Fewer people are reading on ereaders, so it would make sense that fewer ereaders are being sold.

The only question I have (it’s one I lack the means to answer and The Bookseller didn’t bother to ask) is just how much effort Waterstones put into selling the Kindle in its stores.

Were the Kindles given a good display, or shoved in the back somewhere? Was there even a display in all the stores, or were the Kindles stuck on a dusty shelf in the store room and only removed when customers asked for them?

I ask because this story reminded me of the lackluster Kobo displays I saw in some Cole’s stores when I was in Vancouver in 2013. If Waterstones' Kindle displays were similarly unappealing then it would explain a lot about why the Kindle sales are down at Waterstones.

Does anyone know?

image by tonymonblat

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Hana October 6, 2015 um 11:55 am

I have visited many Waterstones stores, and overall the kindle display was actually not so good. First of all, it wasn’t immediately obvious. Second of all, the devices were displayed for testing but always in a nook of sorts. Nothing around them highlighted the electronic content. Finally, on almost every occasion (and this concerns Kobo in WH Smith as well), the accessories have taken up more selling space than the devices. It seemed to me that overall, the devices were not advertised very well and the selling space reflected it. What also didn’t help was that Waterstones did not often have the newest of the devices available and was basically selling last years' models.

Nate Hoffelder October 6, 2015 um 12:19 pm


That adds a lot of context.

Mike Hall October 6, 2015 um 1:11 pm

Agree with Hana’s observations.

And why would someone thinking of buying a Kindle – who is probably already an Amazon customer – bother trailing off to a book shop when they can do it on line from their armchair? Especially as in my experience it is currently not unusual to get next day delivery on free super saver purchases.

James T Kelly October 6, 2015 um 4:49 pm

The Kindle display in the Norwich branch of Waterstones was close to the front and not tucked away at all. That said I never saw any customers taking an interest in the devices. It seems to me most people are in a bookshop to buy a book. Perhaps the people who want ereaders and ebooks are more likely online?

Michael October 7, 2015 um 2:10 am

For the handful of stores I’ve been in, I would say it was pretty good. Usually in a good spot, near the main entrance and/or cashier, and as nice a display as I would have expected. I never took much notice of the devices themselves though, so I can’t say if they were the latest models.

Overall, I thought they made a good effort at promoting them.

kariss October 7, 2015 um 4:34 am

The city centre ones I’ve been to have Kindles fairly prominent. They tend to have there won 'shelf' despay area at least near the front of the shop and the larger stores shave ones on podiums for you to play with. However they are lumped into the same area as gifts and toys so I wouldn’t really go over there unless it was christmas or something

kariss October 7, 2015 um 4:36 am

Sorry for my awful spelling there! It’s too early here in the UK….

I promise, folks, people are not abandoning their ereaders – October 23, 2015 um 2:18 am

[…] number three: sure, Waterstones stopped selling Kindles. But as The Digital Reader points out, this is less of a question of people abandoning digital reading in general, and more of a question […]

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