CommentaryJune 15th, 2016
Cutting out the middlemen
One of the big publishing stories within the last month is the decision by Waterstones to stop selling digital content direct to consumers, and instead transfer them to the Kobo platform via an affiliate scheme.
The decision has been seen by some as a disappointing retreat – The Bookseller recently featured an excellent comment piece lamenting the news – essentially an admission that even retailers as big as Waterstones can no longer compete with Amazon on the eBook front. It is just the latest in a string of retailers to have made similar moves: Barnes & Noble shut down its Nook store in the UK in March, for instance, transferring its customers to Sainsbury’s; and Tesco ended its Blinkbox service a year earlier. It has led to alarm at the prospect of Amazon becoming even more dominant in the ebook market.
Critics have also suggested that Waterstones should have tried harder with ebooks. Amazon is, admittedly, a daunting challenge for any retailer to take on. But Waterstones has an outstanding brand and, in its hundreds of bookshops, some great places to showcase digital as well as print content. Perhaps it now regrets not building a comprehensive and convenient ebook service sooner, or not buying an existing one that it could have bolted on, like Blinkbox.