The best thing that happened to bookselling during my time as a writer was the brave initiative of Tim Waterstone in establishing a chain of superb bookshops throughout the country. They were well-placed, inviting, efficiently-run and a wonderful improvement on WH Smith, the newsagents which were little more than pretend bookshops.
It was a bad day for authors when Tim Waterstone decided to sell his bookshops to WH Smith and retire. Four or five years ago there was a rumour that he might be tempted to come back and buy up the rival bookselling business Ottakers. But he did not come back and high street bookselling in this country has declined so rapidly since then that it seems in danger of disappearing.
What has gone wrong? The ending of retail price maintenance was a great blow to small independent bookshops. Waterstone's, which had bought Ottakers, was filling its windows and tables with cut-price paperbacks and three-for-the-price-of-two options, and appeared to be in a strong position. Publishers were obliged to pay, and pay heavily, for good positions for their titles in their shops.
But fundamentally Waterstone's had no real interest in books and was not looking to the future. The future lay with internet bookselling which Waterstone's has eventually started, but where it will find difficulty matching the super-efficiency of Amazon. Its policy of looking backwards and following what sold well last year or the year before has now hit the buffers. Celebrity books sold badly last Christmas and their sales dipped steeply. It is no surprise to hear managing director Gerry Johnson has left the sinking vessel. And it is too late now, I reckon, for his replacement, Dominic Myers, to call on Tim Waterstone
Profits at online retail giant Amazon leapt by 71% in the last three months of 2009 as shoppers spent more than ever during the festive season.
Amazon reported a net profit of $384m (£238m), up from $225m in the same quarter a year ago.
Sales rose 42% to $9.5bn, helped by favourable changes in foreign exchange rates, the firm
Penguin Boss Unfazed By March Of Ebooks
The relentless march of the electronic book – epitomised by Amazon's Kindle reader and the forthcoming Apple iPad – threatens to hollow out the publishing world in the same way as the internet has altered forever the dynamics of the music industry.
Penguin boss John Makinson likens the rise of the ebook to the moment when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century.
Just when you thought celebrity books were dying
A bidding war has broken out among publishers for the rights to the singer's autobiography, with the price apparently reaching more than £5million.
Random House, HarperCollins and Penguin are all understood to be among the bidders, with industry insiders claiming competition has grown so fierce that the eventual fee could be the highest-ever paid for a celebrity's memoirs.
New Book From John Brown
The long awaited follow up to Return to Oz , has at last been announced. Fans of the travel writer John Brown will be pleased to hear that his new book 'North of Watford Gap', is now available via your nearest Waterston's or independent bookshop. No prizes for guessing what it's all about - I think the cover says it all -
Hay is lovely, except for the festival
When I heard the news that Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan, is to appear at this year's Hay-on-Wye literary festival, I first thought that someone was making a mordant joke, the purpose of which was to indicate that literary festivals are getting a bit out of hand. But no – he's really turning up, apparently.
I wonder what he's going to talk about. As military dictators go he was, I am sure, one of the nicer ones, but his connection with the realm of literature seems tenuous at best, unless I have missed something. Then again, Hay has always been happy to give the powerful, or the formerly powerful, a platform: who can forget Bill Clinton in 2001, calling it "the Woodstock of the mind"? Cont'd
IPad's Book-like Touches May Appeal To Traditional Readers
It's not just that the iPad is beautiful. Nor is it just that the touch-screen interface is more intuitive than the controls on the plastic shell of the Kindle — which up to now has been the dominant e-reader.
So what is it? Simply this: Books on the iPad are electronic without losing their essential bookness, in a way that e-books haven't been before.
March Sales Figures Point To Continued Growth On The High Street
Mid-size high street retailers are going in to the second quarter of the year in a strong position after a second consecutive month of improvements in retail spending, according to accountants and business advisers BDO LLP
The Return of Tim ?
TIM Waterstone could team up with Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut to buy back his eponymous chain of book shops from HMV.
Shares in HMV Group climbed 4.5 per cent on The Return of Tim ?Friday after the firm effectively slapped a "for sale" sticker on its Waterstone's business as the music retailer struggles to deal with its mounting debt
In an extract from his shortly to be released memoirs, the former Chancellor Alistair Darling slams the leadership skills of the most senior figures in the High Street banks. The very people, who we the tax payer, had to get off the hook by bailing out the banks to the tune of .be £50 billion.
Alistair Darling is quoted as writing, ‘he feared the bank chiefs at the heart of the financial crisis were so arrogant and stupid that they might bring us all down". His forthcoming book is withering in its condemnation of people such as Sir Fred Goodwin, the former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He complains ‘Sir Fred behaved as if he was off to play a game of golf" rather than confronting the threat of a collapse in the whole banking sector.
Why would he bother, the man retired on an obscene pension and showed nothing short of total contempt for the suggestion he may want to reduce such an amount, preferring public scorn to moral contrition.
What a pity Alistair didn’t say a few of these things at the time. Still better late than never – but the rest of us had guessed the true nature of these people long ago – And they wonder why we don’t trust The Establishment !