Skip to main content

Waterstones Thinks Customers Are Too Stupid to Remember Where They Bought a Kindle – Adds Advert to Remind Them

Here’s a bone-headed maneuver for you.

Remember how Waterstones was going to sell the Kindle and take a sales commission on the hardware and any ebooks bought from that device? Apparently they decided that the subtle but positive relationship of simply making money off the Kindle wasn’t good enough; now they’ve turned the Kindles they sell into billboards.

The Kindles sold by Waterstones got a firmware update in early November. This update wasn’t rolled out to all the Kindles, and for good reason. According to a couple different users (story has also been confirmed by Waterstones) the only change in the update was a new screensaver.

I have not yet seen it myself, but the Kindle owners are reporting that all the screensavers have been replaced by a Waterstones logo. Furthermore, there’s no way to disable or replace that screensaver, so every time these Kindle owners pick up their device they will be reminded where they purchased it.

Apparently Waterstones thinks their customers are stupid.

You would have to think your customers are stupid if you assume they won’t do the math, realize they paid full price, and be pissed about the advertising. And it is advertising. This is just as much an advert as the ones found on the Kindles w\SO, only Waterstones' customers didn’t get a discount on the price.

You would have to think your customers are stupid if you think they won’t return the Kindle and then go buy one (without the advertising) direct from Amazon.

Rude comments aside, that is exactly why this was a poor decision. Waterstones takes a commission on ebook sales, so they should be doing everything they can to draw in customers and not be giving them reasons to abandon the chain.

P.S. For those who are interested, here is the email which Waterstones sent out to one customer:

Thank you for your email regarding your Kindle Paperwhite from Waterstones.

I am sorry you are disappointed by the addition of a Waterstones screensaver after the recent software update to Kindle. It is our view that this screensaver does not constitute advertising and differs substantially to the advertising-supported Kindles available to the US market. The Waterstones screensaver is a non-dynamic, static image that will change infrequently and not advertise any specific product, offer or website.

It is not possible to remove the Waterstones screensaver to replace it with the former Amazon screensaver. We apologise that this change was made without consultation, and hope it does not detract from or alter your reading experience. However, if you feel it does, please let us know and we will arrange for the return of the device and a full refund.

I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Service Team




Similar Articles


Mike Cane December 6, 2012 um 8:58 am

Wow. Someone overreached. Why not photos of writers with a subtle Waterstones logo in a lower corner?

Eric Riback December 6, 2012 um 9:29 am

Do you notice that your cell phone has the logo of your provider as well as that of the manufacturer? This is what they should have done. A subtle Waterstones logo co-branding the kindle. It would be easy to do on all the units shipping to Waterstones. The approach they’ve taken is clearly annoying and counterproductive as you point out.

fjtorres December 6, 2012 um 11:42 am

Even less obtrusive and cheap: a little sticker on the back.

They did say the screensaver will "change infrequently" so they *can* change it.
Maybe they’ll get a clue.

carmen webster buxton December 6, 2012 um 10:00 am

Overreached is a good word for this. Technology allows people to make fools of themselves much faster than they could do it on their own.

Small Mouse December 6, 2012 um 6:40 pm

I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about – how is a static logo different from the original Kindle screensaver (I don’t own one, so wouldn’t know what the Kindle screensaver looks like.)? At this point, sounds like a lot of fuss over something that really doesn’t matter – it’s a screensaver, who pays attention to that?!

Mike Cane December 6, 2012 um 8:54 pm

>>>I don’t own one, so wouldn’t know what the Kindle screensaver looks like.

And that’s why you don’t understand the fuss.

Name Required December 6, 2012 um 10:57 pm

OK. Let’s have a car example 😉
You buy a new car. Full price. You buy at a Acme Dealership and it costs exactly the same as at any other establishment.

One morning, several months later you wake up and find out somebody has spray-painted (using paint that can’t be removed) an advertisement for Acme Dealership on your car door. You call the dealership and they laconically tell you: "What is the fuss about? You can’t see the advertisement while you are driving and who looks at the door when unlocking the car? Besides, we sold you that car so we felt we could just come in the middle of the night and put our logo on your car."

Would you accept such explanation?

Small Mouse December 7, 2012 um 3:02 pm

Name Required I get that, but considering it’s swapping one screensaver for another, rather than inserting a screensaver when there wasn’t one before (like your car advert), I must admit, I’m still a little stumped.

For example, I’d be annoyed if my old screensaver-less Sony suddenly had a screensaver after an update, but if it had had a screensaver before and that screensaver has now changed so it features a different company’s logo than the one before – meh, whatever. The picture’s just changed to me is all, I wouldn’t be paying too much attention to it anyway. I don’t count a single logo as advertising, not like I would the suggested titles or whatever it is they’re officially calling those adverts on the Kindle Fire and HD. Now that IS intrusive for me.

Seems ultimately rather daft to change the screensaver when it’s never going to be really looked at anyway though. Reckon Waterstone’s is probably wondering why on Earth it bothered with all this hate flying around, although I can see why they’d want to remind everyone that they exist. Maybe it’s all linked in to their Read for Free thing, like Tim Cushing mentions? You know, remind them of where they bought the Kindle so they can go back and presumably get something more for it? That theory does seem to hinge on their customer’s inability to remember though…

fjtorres December 7, 2012 um 4:59 pm

Try this: the default Kindle has one of two screensavers.
One cycles tasteful images of classic authors. No branding at all.
The other cycles ads and discount offers and "pays" you for the privilege (through a purchase time discount).
The "screensaver" is always visible when you’re not reading.
Waterstone’s slipped in what to many looks to be an ad on Kindles that were purchased as ad-less. After the fact.
To new buyers, this may or not be an issue.
But to people who thought they were getting an ad-less reader…

Small Mouse December 7, 2012 um 5:44 pm

But I thought it was literally just a logo, no ads/discounts/offers? If it’s offer and discounts, fair do’s, get it off, but if it’s just a logo it’s just boring to me, not an advert.

fjtorres December 7, 2012 um 7:33 pm

A logo *is* an ad: it promotes the brand.
The lack of discounts/offers just adds to the insult.
Again: the customers thought they were buying ad-less Kindles. No ads for anybody.
Instead they get a permanent promo for the middleman retrofitted on their readers.

Just because some people don’t mind doesn’t mean others aren’t allowed to mind.

Small Mouse December 8, 2012 um 4:31 pm

But isn’t the previous Kindle screensaver a promo for Kindle? Doesn’t that include the Kindle logo? Isn’t that also an ad?
Sorry, I’m genuinely trying to see why everyone’s annoyed! It’s really bugging me that I don’t understand it!

Ellen M. Gregg December 11, 2012 um 9:59 am

The ad-free Kindles have screensavers that feature a variety of author portraits – no Amazon/Kindle branding in site.

Ellen M. Gregg December 11, 2012 um 10:01 am

And by "site" I meant sight. 🙂

Tim Cushing December 6, 2012 um 7:15 pm

Well, to be fair, Waterstones CEO James Daunt "warned" customers about this a few months back:

"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."

Write a Comment