Friday, December 17, 2010

Waterstone's looks to cloud for digital growth

The Bookseller - 16.12.10 - Graeme Neill

Waterstone's managing director Dominic Myers has revealed the bookseller is working on its own cloud-based system for reading e-books and has rebutted recent criticism over high levels of returns.

Myers was speaking after the bookseller revealed it reduced its losses by £3m to £9.9m, with total sales down 2.4% to £219.5m and like-for-like sales down 3.2% in the six months to 23rd October. According to Nielsen BookScan figures for the same period, the Total Consumer Market was down 1.5% to £772.7m. The General Retail Market, Nielsen's best indicator of UK high street performance, dropped 1.6% to £422.9m.

Myers said: "We have done all right. Everybody is aware it is a difficult market at the moment. That hasn't been helped during the past few weeks by the weather." Looking ahead, he was anticipating a peak in e-book sales just after Christmas, when people get devices as presents. However, he added it was "too early" to say what the impact of agency pricing would be on sales. But he warned: "We are very keen that it should be competitive in the consumers' eyes but we need to see how that pans out. A careful balance needs to be struck."

He said Waterstone's would follow Google and Amazon's lead by developing a cloud-based solution for reading e-books across different devices. He said: "Cloud-based content will become a reality and we are conscious about how we get there ourselves."

The retailer has been criticised this year by independent publishers for the volume and quality of returns as it reshapes its offer and stock in stores. Myers accepted returns had been "difficult" for some publishers but said the quality of books it returned was within industry-agreed parameters. "If a book sits on a shelf for nine months to a year, we are funding the cost of stocking it. There is a possibility that the book may not be in the exact condition it was sent to us but customers will have been taking it off the shelf, looking at it and then putting it back. [Slight damage] is part of the price of having books in stores."

More at The Bookseller.

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