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Waterstone’s Vs. Amazon


Posted At: 11 March 2011 00:33 AM
Related Categories: Future of Retailing, Retail, Retailers, Social Commentary


Gone are the days when, if you wanted to read a book, you either bought it with the choice of hard or soft backed, or you went to the local library.

With the internet came Amazon and many other internet book retailers, with their super-cheap new and second hand books and speedy delivery (most of the time).

The humble book shop that you had to actually physically visit faded into the background with Waterstone’s experiencing dreadful Christmas results in 2009 and failures in its supply chain costing the then managing director his job.

The most recent news relating to book stores is that Russian investor Alexander Mamut has directed Credit Suisse to advise him on a potential acquisition of Waterstone’s.

Mr Mamut holds a 6 per cent stake in HMV (Waterstone’s parent). Many observers did not think the businessman would consider making a bid for the book retailer with no clear business benefits.

One reason however could be that in fact Mr Mamut’s aspiration to own the chain stems from an intellectual ambition, rather than a financial one, in the same way that other oligarchs collect Premiership football teams.

In my opinion, Mr Mamut buying the Book store would be a positive thing.

I enjoy visiting a store, browsing through books, visiting the café if there is one.
One significant difference between online stores and bricks and mortar is that you don’t have the helpful staff available.

They can recommend books, order in obscure titles or even recommend a book similar to something you have already read. The reason Waterstone’s has all these benefits is that genuine book lovers work in store who have actually read the books and can give real advice.

Amazon may be able to use clever queries to sell you similar items or possible items you may be interested in due to your shopping activity, but this will never compare to a real life person giving a recommendation based on the fact they personally really enjoyed a book.

Some believe that physical shops will only survive in city centres and affluent locations as the market moves online, and books become increasingly available to download.

This may be the case, and if this is the future then businessmen such as Alexander Mamut saving book stores as a hobby rather than a business acquisition can only be a good thing?

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Online book sellers will never replace the real thing for me, but for many the former is fast taking over from the latter. Unfortunately, I think bookshops may have to add to their book-buying experience to compete. Waterstones has the right sort of idea - incorporating cafes into their stores, but I feel they will have to up the ante somewhat to make up for the comparative convenience of the likes of Amazon, in order to survive. We shall have to wait and see what happens.

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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinion of the author and are not intended as statements of fact and do not represent the view of SnapShop or Pragma in any way.


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