Monday, March 07, 2016

Waterstones’ James Daunt: ‘Student of Bookshops’

By Roger Tagholm | Publishing Perspectives

Waterstones’ new Tottenham Court Road store in London features “social space.” Image: Roger Tagholm
‘If Amazon Were To Open Physical Bookshops’
If the UK votes to leave the European Union this summer, it could make it easier for Amazon to open a chain of bookstores in the country—and that would “wipe us out”, says Waterstones Managing Director James Daunt.

He spoke to Publishing Perspectives in a wide-ranging interview that included the debate over Europe, the design of the chain’s new Tottenham Court Road store in central London and the differences between the UK and US book markets. As ever, Daunt came across as a devoted book enthusiast, passionate about physical bookselling and determined to continue the turnaround of the UK’s leading specialist book chain (though he would balk at that last word):

“If Amazon were to open physical bookshops, clearly that would be the end of us—you’d have to hope the competition people would come to our aid.  Please God, let’s stay in Europe—for a million reasons, and that’s one of them.”

As the debate rages nationally over whether the UK should leave Europe (it is dubbed “Brexit”) and Prime Minister David Cameron tours the country to persuade the British public to vote to remain in the EU in this June’s referendum, Daunt put his concern this way:
“If you are within Europe, then the European competition guys have a voice and a say, and they may look rather askance at an individual company losing an enormous amount of money in order to push out its only other competitor. If you’re not in Europe, then it’s a matter for the UK authorities. Who would you place your trust in?”


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