January 9, 2015

Waterstones: Kindle sales have “disappeared”


Waterstones m.d. James Daunt

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt

Waterstones, Britain’s leading chain bookshop, had a good Christmas. As The Bookseller reports, physical book sales over Christmas were up over 5% year on year. Speaking to The Bookseller, Waterstones m.d. James Daunt credited that to:

The shops were looking good. Our best shops performed the best, which is as it should be – customers respond to good shops. The books overall were good but there wasn’t any great excitement there. I would like to think it was down to the booksellers in the shops, creating an energetic environment. The good weather gods were on our side as well.

Good sales for Waterstones is good news for the publishing industry, and strong Christmas sales figures were also seen at Blackwell’s and Foyles. In fact, there were positive figures across the industry, where the overall market in print books was up by 3.7% (233.9m) this year.

But where Waterstones saw a decline was in its sale of Kindle devices, which the bookseller has somewhat controversially carried since 2012. However on Tuesday, Daunt told The Financial Times that demand for and sales of the Kindle had now “disappeared to all intents and purposes”.  Speaking to The Bookseller, Daunt elaborated:

The biggest swing for us was in Kindle sales which just weren’t there. We did not sell many Kindles at all this year in comparison to last year. I gather it has been the same in the US… I think everyone who wants a Kindle now has one. We sold a very large number around this time last year, so that obviously has had an impact on us this year, but if we take that out then core sales – everything other than Kindle- were up by over 5% which was pretty good.

Daunt’s statement was echoed by Sam Husain, C.E.O of the Foyles chain, who told The FT that sales of the Nook, which Foyles stocks, were ““not as impressive as one would expect them to be” and that physical book sales had outperformed ebooks.

Daunt’s conculsion —that customer demand for the Kindle has now been satisfied— is reflected in the slowing down in the rise of ebook sales, which publishers have been noticing for some time. In The FTDouglas McCabe of Enders Analysis said there were statistics to show this: “The rapid growth of ebook sales has quite dramatically slowed and there is some evidence it has gone into reverse.”

Meanwhile, Waterstones opened five new stores in 2014 and plans to open “at least a dozen” more in 2015. After years of making a loss, the chain predicts it will break even this year.


Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.