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I Think We’re Reading Too Much Into What James Daunt Said About Library eBooks

There was a story on The Bookseller late last week that is generating a lot of attention. It contains a couple eyebrow raising quotes from James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones.

According to The Bookseller, James thinks that library ebooks are a threat to booksellers.  But I’m not sure that’s what he said, and the way the quotes are used by The Bookseller makes me doubt their reliability.

Mr. Daunt was at a Financial Times event last week where he was first interviewed, and after which he participated in a round table discussion on the future of bookselling.

I was all set to write a post about Waterstones being doomed because the M.D. didn’t understand his customers, but I cannot. The Bookseller only has short excerpts of Daunt’s statements, and that’s just not enough material to support calling him an idiot. So I spent a few minutes in Google and turned up a podcast which you can find


I’d recommend that you listen to the podcast. I have listened 3 times now and I have something of a problem. I cannot find the first quote anywhere (I’m going to look really stupid if I missed it).

The second and third quotes are found in the  8 minute podcast  (1:00, 2:50) but the first quote is not. I can only conclude that the quotes mentioned by the The Bookseller are at a minimum (1) taken out of order which leads me to think they might be (2) taken out of context.

Note that I’m not saying the first quote is made up. But until I know the context in which it was made (the conversation before & after) I’m not prepared to make any argument based on those quotes. I’m also not prepared to take any argument based on those quotes seriously.

The only thing I can accuse him of is looking down his nose at the ebooks his customers are reading, but that’s hardly worth noticing, much less criticizing Daunt.

I really would have liked to have written the post I had originally planned and joined in on the heckling. But as much as I would enjoy pointing out Daunt’s lack of understanding, I cannot reliably show that he made any questionable statements.

The Bookseller

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Peter May 15, 2012 um 12:21 pm

This is quite possibly the most detective work I’ve ever seen someone put into potentially calling someone an idiot.

Nate Hoffelder May 15, 2012 um 1:08 pm

LOL I didn’t want to let the work go to waste.

Peter May 15, 2012 um 1:16 pm

FWIW, after reading the teleread post I’m glad you did it.

Half of their link-post was a rant arguing with a point (library sales would compete with print book sales instead of ebook sales) that neither Daunt nor the originating article even made. And then on top of that the originating article was quoting out of context.

I’m done with teleread, is what I’m saying.

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