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Waterstones sale good for writers

30 April 2018

The sale of Waterstones to activist hedge fund Elliott Advisers has been widely welcomed in the book trade and is very much in the interests of writers. Like Barnes & Noble in the US, the British bookstore chain occupies a key position in terms of chain bookselling.

The difference is that Waterstones has benefited from having James Daunt in charge for a number of years and, although there have been painful cuts, not least to a level of management in the stores, Daunt's efforts have been widely admired by publishers and seen as enabling the bookshop sector to continue to benefit from being able to deal with one big chain of ‘proper' bookshops.

Certainly from the customers' point of view the Waterstones stores offer good ranges of books within an attractive bookish environment and this is what heavy book-buyers are looking for when they are browsing.
It is highly significant that Daunt will continue to run the chain and, it is safe to assume, will carry on with the policies which have brought about a turnaround.

Anthony Forbes Watson, md at Pan MacmillanOne of largest fiction and non-fiction book publishers in UK; includes imprints of Pan, Picador and Macmillan Children’s Books, said:

"Waterstones has played and will continue to play a vital role in the UK book industry. As long as James Daunt remains in charge I am optimistic about the future of Waterstones. Good bookselling, like good publishing, is about people and talent. What James and his team have provided at Waterstones has been transformational. Therefore I am delighted that the new investment and new ownership comes with James at the helm."

Daunt himself said:

"This is a very happy outcome for Waterstones. Our booksellers can be immensely proud to have proved through good, old-fashioned bookselling, the enduring appeal and worth of real bookshops."

Waterstones has 283 shops, of which 5 are in Europe (3 in Ireland; 1 in Amsterdam; 1 in Brussels), 5 in Northern Ireland, 26 in Scotland and 6 in Wales. It owns Hatchards, London's oldest bookshop established in 1797, and Hodges Figgis, Dublin's oldest bookshop established in 1768. Its Piccadilly flagship is thought to be Europe's largest bookshop.

In terms of getting books to readers, the part played by a serious bookshop chain cannot be over-emphasised and it's very good news that Waterstones will continue to perform that task under the same management as before.