Big British blow for B&N: Waterstones goes with Kindle
The EBR (E-Book Reader) market is a lot more complicated than it might seem. It’s a war for global domination.
While Barnes & Noble has undoubtedly taken some of the market share for e-books in the US from Amazon and the Kindle (it was reportedly about 30% in April), the same isn’t true outside America.
You know what the percentage of e-book sales to British citizens that Barnes & Noble has?
If you don’t have a US credit card and a US address, you can’t buy NOOK books.
I wanted to confirm that, so I chatted with a Barnes & Noble rep. That is a nice feature they have, by the way. It’s pretty easy to chat with somebody there. You can chat with Kindle Customer Service, but it doesn’t seem as readily available.
Here’s the transcript of our chat:
19:10:57 : Bufo Calvin: Initial Question/Comment: Can you purchase books for a NOOK from Barnes & Noble when outside the USA?
19:11:02 : System: Welcome to the Barnes & Noble Chatroom.
19:11:02 : System: Rian has joined this session!
19:11:02 : System: Connected with Rian. Your Reference Number for this chat is 905756.
19:11:03 : System: Thanks for joining us.
19:11:07 : Rian: Thank you for joining Barnes and Noble Digital Chat. This is Rian and I’m happy to assist you today.
19:11:13 : Rian: Hi, Bufo.
19:11:40 : Bufo Calvin: Hi!
19:11:47 : Rian: Just to clarify, you’re asking if you can purchase eBooks for the NOOK if you are outside U.S. Is that correct?
19:12:00 : Bufo Calvin: Yes, that’s correct.
19:12:07 : Rian: Thank you.
19:12:57 : Rian: Please be advised that you can download titles from bn.com for the NOOK if you have a valid U.S. credit card and billing address saved on your B&N account even if you are outside the United States.
19:13:49 : Bufo Calvin: Okay. What if you aren’t a US customer? Could a British citizen with British credentials purchase e-books for a NOOK?
19:14:58 : Rian: As long as the above information are met, there will be no problem, Bufo.
19:15:27 : Bufo Calvin: So, if someone did not have a US credit card and a US billing address, they could not purchase NOOK books?
19:15:48 : Rian: Yes, you are correct.
19:16:12 : Bufo Calvin: That’s what I wanted to know…thanks for your help!
19:16:33 : Rian: You’re welcome.
19:16:33 : Rian: Should you need further assistance in the future, please don’t hesitate to chat with us.
19:16:43 : Rian: Thanks once again for joining the Barnes & Noble Chat.
19:16:48 : Rian: Have a great night!
19:16:53 : Bufo Calvin: You, too!
Back in January, it was being reported that Barnes & Noble might be partnering with Waterstones (formerly Waterstone’s…they dropped the apostrophe to make it easier to work with the name online, as I understand it).
That would have been a good move for Barnes & Noble.
Waterstones, founded in 1982, has literally hundreds of stores. If B&N had gotten the NOOK into those stores, it would have been a major step into the international market.
Unfortunately for them, not only did they not get it…Waterstones went with the Kindle:
To use the vernacular: “Hard cheese, Barnes & Noble.”
Not only that, Waterstones made it clear what they thought:
“The best digital readers, the Kindle family, will be married to the singular pleasures of browsing a curated bookshop. With the combination of our talents we can offer the exceptional customer proposition to which we both aspire.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO, said: “Waterstones is the premier high street bookseller and is passionate about books and readers – a dedication that we share deeply. We could never hope for a better partner to bring together digital reading and the physical bookstore.”
You might be thinking, “Hey, doesn’t Amazon already sell Kindles and Kindle books in the UK?”
That makes this doubly bad for B&N. They might have made it a fight, but Amazon decided to enter the ring from both corners.
Waterstones faces challenges with their brick-and-mortar stores, of course, and I don’t know that this partnership will be enough…they were having a tough time, but did get a big influx of cash when a billionaire bought them.
In fact, last year, it was reported that Waterstones might be developing its own EBR:
I even put that prediction in the
I’ll have to update that.
The coverage on this hasn’t all been exactly positive, especially in the UK:
- The Guardian: “Waterstones kindle a deal for destruction with Amazon”
- TechRadar: “Swallowed by Amazon: is selling the Kindle a good idea for Waterstones?
- Waterstones’ Kindles may end up killing it”
- Gizmodo.co.uk: “Waterstones Surrenders to the Amazon Ebook Behemoth and Agrees to Stock Kindles”
- brandchannel: “Waterstones’ Deal With the Devil – Amazon – Brings Kindle to the High Street”
- The Telegraph: “Waterstones: letting the Amazon fox into the chicken coop”
Yes, I did deliberately chose negative headlines…but they weren’t hard to find.
Honestly, I do think this is a major missed opportunity for B&N.
I’m curious as to what you think, especially if you are British. One angle for me: what do you think about Waterstones? Do you think of them as champions of paperbooks, or as crushers of small bookstores (or both, I suppose)? Are they the first ones you think of for a bookstore? When was the last time you were in one?
For everybody, does B&N need Britain? Could they make it there without a bookstore brick-and-mortar partner? If they don’t make it in Britain, how does taht affect their sales in the USA?
Feel free to let me know…
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.