The name is James - James Daunt
by I.M Khalifa
The name is James - James Daunt. As the CEO of the bookshop giant, Waterstones, stands in front of the packed lecture theatre at Oxford Brookes ready to start, our voices begin to die down. This afternoon lecture is promising to educate us on ‘The Value of Booksellers in a Changing World’.
In the wake of what some are calling the digital revolution, the debate, of whether or not the Publishing industry needs to let go of traditional publishing practices, is getting heated. The continuing rise of Amazon and the closing down of bricks-and-mortar bookshops pulls the debate in one direction. But surviving high-street bookshops like Waterstones and Blackwells are perhaps testaments that the discussion could also be pulled in the other.
It has been a painful decade, Daunt tells the room. £93 million loss in sales, EBITDA in general decline, and a 26% fall in market share thanks to an increase of Kindle sales. Yet we still managed to turn it around, Daunt continues, a smile on his face.
We all wait: pens poised over paper, fingers over keyboards.
You make bookshops relevant again. Relevant to publishers and costumers. Then you empower booksellers.
For us undergraduate Publishing students, who did the mandatory bookshop report in our first year, we might understand a little about Waterstones’ displays. The books on the tables are popular fiction, often presented under an offer; and the titles on the shelves are where you go if you want to discover books. What we may not have known is how each Waterstones bookstore is unapologetically individual.
There is a pride in Daunt’s smile as he shares his strategy.
Booksellers are given full rein to make the titles complementary to the shop’s location, and to choose which titles are on display.
We all scribble down as much as we can.
Someone asks, ‘There is an article that says that Waterstones is going to stop selling the Kindle? Why?’
To which Daunt replies, ‘Simply because the Kindle is no longer selling as well.’
There is a small triumphant sound that I am sure, is coming from every student (and lecturer) in the room. And that, I think, is evidence that the value of booksellers is pulling the debate in favour of traditional publishing.
You can read more here at the author’s blog: I.M Khalifa
About the author of this article
The author, I.M Khalifa, is an undergraduate Publishing student at Oxford Brookes University
Last edited: 30 10 2015