Have Waterstones Smelled The Coffee?

The Times yesterday quoted from The Independent, who said of Waterstones, "the book chain's likely future looks as slim as one of those volumes of poetry that you won't find in its celebrity-heavy outlets". The decline in book sales and the coincidental closure of Borders UK is being partly blamed on the availability of cheaper items from Amazon and the growing popularity of electronic books.

I am sure I am not alone in being irritated by the fact that if you appear on TV these days, any book you care to write, or have ghostwritten, will unquestionably appear in Waterstones' window before the preface is written.

Michael Holroyd, president of the Royal Society of literature, wrote in The Guardian that the long-term problem with Waterstone's was that it "had no real interest in books and was not looking to the future". He added: "Its policy of looking backwards and following what sold well last year or the year before has now hit the buffers."

Pricewaterhouse Cooper's own research claims: 'bookstore browsing isn't dead; nor are independent booksellers such as the fabulous Lutyens & Rubinstein, which select books themselves and don't discount. Waterstone's has a strong brand and, with about 25 per cent of the market, just needs to convince the literati to return."

I have this suggestion for Waterstones - Tell the publishers to print books people want to read - not the life stories and make-up tips of twenty-two-year old reality TV show participants and footballers.


KarenG said…
So sad, so sad. I posted about this a few days ago (Book Cover Controversy), when I read a blog about whether covers should be matte or glossy. Do these booksellers not get it? They're struggling to survive and still so many of them just don't get it. The celebrity book phenomenon is an issue here in the U.S. as well. It's sickening.
V. L. Smith said…
Waterstone's a good many other booksellers can only "convince the literati to return" if and when they start listening to their customers. I read books to escape the constant download of celebrity nonsense. I know far too much about such lives as it is!

As for matte versus glossy... How damned stupid do they think we are? "Oh, I'll buy this book 'cause it's cuter - not for what I found between the covers.." Right.
Ginger Simpson said…
You said it, girlfriend...Step on that stupid "proverbial" box that authors are forced to fit their stories into in order to garner the attention of agents and publishers of the higher ranking. Honestly, I'm with you...I get so ticked to see these no-talent "celebrity" types on talk shows discussing a book they didn't even write, yet are making millions when I've published several and have yet to buy anything more meaningful that a Happy Meal at McDonalds. Sucks to be me, I guess.
Joleen said…
I would love to see more space in bookshops devoted to new authors, particularly of fiction. It drives me in to a rage when I see so-called celebrities writing an autobiography after 15 minutes of fame and +/- 25 years of life. Surely an autobiography (and let's face it, since most are ghostwritten they're closer to biography with a first-person viewpoint) should only come out when the person has achieved something of note, and then preferably some time has passed so that achievement can be properly assessed? See - getting angry already!
Jen Black said…
Customer friendly staff in Waterstones would be a good thing, too. Their policy of employing graduates, if they still cling to it, resulted in some very supercilious young people who looked down their noses at the romance section. Needless to say I haven't been in a store for a very long time!
Muse in the Fog said…
Ugh, I really dislike the who celebrity book hype. What kind of literature is that!?

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