HIGH STREET RETAILER Waterstones has announced a partnership with Amazon, a firm that only recently its managing director described as the devil.
It was just before Christmas that Waterstones MD James Daunt decided to wax lyrical about Amazon in an interview with the Independent. Then he was very clear about Amazon and its Kindle, and his firm's plans to take on the online retailer at its own game. Since then he seems to have changed his mind.
"They never struck me as being a sort of business in the consumer's interest. They're a ruthless, money-making devil. The computer screen is a terrible environment in which to select books. All that, 'If you read this, you'll like that' - it's a dismal way to recommend books. A physical bookshop in which you browse, see, hold, touch and feel books is the environment you want," he said.
"You'll walk into a Waterstone's and there'll be a bit of the shop where you can look at e-readers, play with them. We're inventing one of our own - perhaps we'll call it the Windle - and we're working on the Barnes & Noble approach," he said. "If the bookshop lets you have both and has a product every bit as good as the Amazon one, why wouldn't you do it with a bookshop?"
Still times change and hands get shaken and now Gaunt has a very different take on Amazon and its Kindle.
Now the official line out of the firm is that the tie-up will complement the Waterstone's proposition and improve the customer experience.
"At Waterstones, we are committed to improving our bookshops quite radically to offer the best possible book buying experience. It is a truly exciting prospect to harness also the respective strengths of Waterstones and Amazon to provide a dramatically better digital reading experience for our customers," said Daunt today.
"The best digital readers, the Kindle family, will be married to the singular pleasures of browsing a curated bookshop. With the combination of our talents we can offer the exceptional customer proposition to which we both aspire."
Although the firm has said that it will be upgrading its 300 UK stores with WiFi to enable the use of Kindles it has not given much more technical information.
A bit more has slipped out on Twitter, where the firm said that it will continue to use the Epub format for its ebooks, despite Amazon using .Mobi. Whether it will use and offer both formats is still unknown.
Someone else who is happy with the deal is Jeff Bezos, but we do not know if he read the interview in the Independent.
"Waterstones is the premier high street bookseller and is passionate about books and readers - a dedication that we share deeply," said the Amazon founder and CEO. "We could never hope for a better partner to bring together digital reading and the physical bookstore." µ
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