Monday 28 May 2012

Waterstones shocking deal with Ebooks seals their future.

(Bookshop on Charing Cross Road London 1950's)

The success of e-books of course has been at the expense of traditional book sellers like Ireland's Hughes + Hughes, Borders and the great Waterstones. Until now that is.

I have blogged about it before and more recently the sad closure of Michael's 30 year old book shop in Dalkey.

E-Books are instant, cheaper than retail and convenient to carry. As a long- standing book devourer, I had make the switch to the Amazon Kindle and never looked back. They're a terrific way to gather and read books as you go about your life. Terrific. But you do miss the bookshop experience.

However, the problem with E-books is exactly that. It's not a store. 

It doesn't have the smell, the help, the ability to pick up a book and have a sneaky flick through. The romance of looking at books and dreaming.

With Kindle, you must really know what you want and just download it - there's no "bookshop" experience, no love. And that's to Kindle's loss because it reduces their ability to sell more....which they know.

If you can browse books and pick them up for a quick look, you're more likely to buy.

So the announcement this week of the Waterstone partnership with Amazon's Kindle is a bit like dancing with the devil until you realise it's a cracking idea!! And the other traditional booksellers, have already begun to shun Waterstones, because they're still living pre-online. It's their ignorance that's going to close them and their employees jobs with them. What Waterstones have done, is to protect those jobs.

You see now, with this deal, you can go into Waterstones, browse the book you might want and download it, via their site, there and then! Simple! In effect Waterstones is becoming a virtual book shop.

Look, see, read the book you want to buy and then download it.

It's exactly the model that some clothing online retailers should consider. Or the model that video renters should have seen. Or the model that music retailers should have done. 

Merging the traditional experience with the new business model because that's what the customer wants.

I know book buyers will throw their arms around Waterstones because they love bookshops but prefer to keep their books in the Kindle. This gives them both.

For Waterstones - they retain you as a customer, get a margin from your download via Amazon and don't have the cost of stocking the shop with multiple copies of the same book. It's perfect.

For Amazon - they now have a high street retail presence which will help them to sell more books through the shopping experience - as well as capitalising on the existing fans and traffic of Waterstones existing www site. Perfect for them. 

For the customer - it's the best of both worlds. Now you can still have the book shop to browse into and not feel bad about downloading rather than buying!!!

It's a brilliant deal all round and more importantly, shows what a forward thinking traditional retailer can do. By embracing the technology, rather than dissing it, Waterstones have actually assured themselves a future. Unlike so many other businesspeople who will be wiped aside.

And that's a lesson for so many traditional businesses who ignore the web as it eats them alive. Netflix's movies on demand being a classic example of that. Or itunes. 

Take a lesson from Waterstone's.
If you can beat them, join them.

The internet is here to stay and starting to become dominant at the expense of traditional business. 

Think like Waterstones.