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Bookstores selling ee-by-gum readers

January 10, 2011
Image of Dodo

Dead as a Dodo? Booksellers need to embrace the culture and consumer aspirations of e-readers or go the way of the flightless bird

I was very interested to read this blog from Martyn Daniels today about how Waterstone’s is selling e-readers in its Bath store. It tells the classic tale of how bookstores up and down the kingdom are embracing e-readers in totally the wrong way.

Last week in A Brand Day Out I commented on Waterstones’ strapline, “feel every word” and suggested that Waterstone’s perhaps wished that e-readers would go away. Now it seems that the Bath Waterstone’s store thinks the same way. Ee-by-gum rather than digital revolution. Little wonder that 20 Waterstone’s stores are to be closed and the very future of the chain is under threat.

Indeed, it brings back memories of my early days at a bookseller in Dillons in London’s Gower Street (or Malet Street) store – now, ironically, Waterstone’s flagship store. In those days in the 1980s, we were selling Acorn and BBC computers and clearly hadn’t a clue how to do it – they were an irrelevance to the store.

They were hard to sell and, indeed, few people bought them. Why should they? They could get a better price, service and customer support elsewhere.

Now Mr Daniels highlights once again the book trade’s ambivalence towards digital products. Indeed, just look at the picture on his blog – e-readers are being promoted like some kind of real ale or fresh farm eggs. This quaint approach really does highlight how little understanding the book trade has of digital brands and consumer aspiration.

The point is this. Either bookstores step up to the plate and start embracing e-readers and consumer interaction or they go the way of those many stick-in-the-mud publishers whose approach to consumers is based on product dumping rather than consumer need.

I wonder sometimes whether the book trade deserves e-readers and whether they are better sold through other environments. If the best the trade can offer is an “oh how quaint” approach to new trends in consumer behaviour then frankly, like Borders, it deserves to go the way of the dodo: clubbed to death by the violent forces of newcomers.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. freakingfertile25 permalink
    January 17, 2011 10:16 pm

    I think you’ll find the flagship Waterstone’s is Piccadilly. Interesting blog. I’m not a fan of e-readers, but I certainly don’t think they’re going to kill the printed word.

    • January 17, 2011 11:06 pm

      Quite right – on both fronts! I keep forgetting about Picadilly – I think I preferred it when they sold clothes there!

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