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Waterstones tightens stranglehold

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  • Waterstones tightens stranglehold

    A literary storm

    Publishers and authors are horrified at Waterstone's proposed takeover of Ottakar's and want it blocked. James Hall investigates the market-leading retailer's controversial buying tactics, including its demands for payments from publishers for putting their books at the front of stores...
    http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/money/...18/ixcoms.html

    :x
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

  • #2
    I certainly don't want to defend Waterstones, but I'm not going to shed any tears over Ottakars. Our local Ottakars has quite a cool lifesize talking Dalek, but hardly a book worth buying.

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    • #3
      I'm no particular fan of Ottakars (in fact, I think it's a ghastly shop), but the real issue is the extra power this will give to W******s; they will control about 25% of the market (arguably more if you exclude books sold at airports and supermarkets). They will use this power to further squeeze small publishers, demanding massive discounts for the privilege of having their books in the shop, thus forcing them out of business. The losers will be the consumers (us) with diminished choice, and new writers, who will be unable to develop a career.

      So should the 'market for corporate control' be allowed to do its work (ie raising short term 'shareholder value'), or is this a trade in serious need of (that dirty word) regulation? This is our culture I'm talking about! But then maybe readers are content with Alan Titchmarsh and endless clones of The Da Vinci Code? Important things are at stake.

      Or then again maybe the internet is the answer and pretty soon now a physical bookshop will seem like a quaint Dickensian relic? I certainly never go into either Ottakars or Waterstones. It's specialist or secondhand shops for me, and they seem increasingly unable to survive unless they have an online presence as well.
      \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Mikey_C
        Or then again maybe the internet is the answer and pretty soon now a physical bookshop will seem like a quaint Dickensian relic?
        It seems to be going that way. Even Waterstones seems to get most of their books from Amazon if you do an online search. The choice in the local Waterstones is poor. They only ever seem to stock the 'best-selling' authors anyway and I can never find what I'm looking for. Mike's books have almost vanished from their shelves.

        As much as I would like to see more independant book shops (like Black Books :) ) I don't think that there will be many left in a few years. It seems that the only way to survive is to become a marketing giant like Waterstones. :(

        Comment


        • #5
          You can hear an interview from Friday's edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme with some top dog at Waterstones why the Ottakars take over is a 'good thing'. :x

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/li...s_20050923.ram

          And here you can hear the Letters section from Saturday's editon of the oday where a number of ex- and current employees of Waterstones spill the beans on Waterstones' internal policies and practices. :clap:

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/li...s_20050924.ram

          I used to frequent Waterstones quite a bit 10 years ago, but I do find Ottakars more to my tastes nowadays. (That said, almost all my book buying is online these days.)
          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

          Comment


          • #6
            To be honest, aside from my day-trip to London a while back, I haven't seen an actual independent bookshop since... well, it must be six years at least. Even when I was living in Derby, probably a medium-sized city, your only choice was Waterstones or second hand. However, I would agree that monopolies are a bad idea. Although I do most of my book-purchasing on-line, there's no reason why a growing, hungry corporation couldn't try to homogenise all of the on-line outlets once they've finished with the bricks and mortar branches. There isn't a lot of differnece between many shops and sites, but what difference there is can often be rewarding for the customer... and as a customer, I'm in favour of that!

            As far as book shops go, my favourite is still Borders, but that's only because of their magazine range, rather than the books themselves (although they do have a range of Art books and graphic novels that make me want to go and rob a bank as soon as I see them).
            "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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            • #7
              Most of our local second hand stores have gone (inc. a very cool one called Ubik that had a good selection of off-beat stuff) - part of that is pressure from Oxfam books (who also do records) - makes it hard for them to compete as a business against a charity shop. Then again so have the record and CD shops, replaced by clothes shops and takeaways, which says a lot about students these days. (In my day, we bought second hand clothes to be able to buy records).

              I too will shed no tears for Ottakars - selection is the ones I've seen is rubbish.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mikey_C
                this will give to W******s; they will control about 25% of the market
                Just a self-correction - according to a report I read in The Times today, this is actually 50%.
                \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mikey_C
                  Originally posted by Mikey_C
                  this will give to W******s; they will control about 25% of the market
                  Just a self-correction - according to a report I read in The Times today, this is actually 50%.
                  Is this not illegal as it would make Waterstones a monopoly? It's been a while since I studied business and law but I can vaguely remember that to be classed as a monopoly, the company only had to control something like 25% of the market.

                  Could this be the death knell of the independant book seller (for those that still remain), at least in the traditional sense?

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