Bookseller Waterstones has signed a commercial agreement with Amazon to launch new e-reading services and offer Kindle devices through its UK shops.
Waterstones managing director James Daunt, who once described Amazon as a “ruthless, money-making devil,” said that the partnership reflected the company's aim to give customers the best possible reading experience in both the physical world and digitally.
“The partnership with Amazon ... gives us a great family of devices, but it also makes the Kindle experience better. You can now read digitally and enjoy the pleasures of browsing in a physical bookshop and all the advantages that go with that,” said Daunt.
“Digital is very much an adjunct to reading physical books,” he added. “We are giving our readers the ability to buy all of their reading from Waterstones.”
The deal will allow Waterstones to sell Kindles and e-books in its high street stores and via the Waterstones website. Free Wi-Fi will be provided in stores, allowing customers to browse e-books and download digital content such as authors' blogs.
The company is also refurbishing many of its outlets to include coffee shops and dedicated “digital spaces,” to attract a new generation of readers. Around 100 shops are expected to be refurbished between now and September.
The deal with Amazon is not exclusive. A Waterstones spokesperson told Techworld that the Waterstones.com website will offer all e-book formats and, within that, the company will partner with Amazon to fulfil the Kindle format books.
Commercial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed, and technical details around how e-book orders will be processed will be released later in the year.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO, praised the Waterstones tie-up. “We could never hope for a better partner to bring together digital reading and the physical bookstore.”
The news comes as something of a surprise, after Waterstones vowed last September to create a rival to the Kindle that would be “at least as good, and preferably substantially better than that of our Internet rival”. The decision to partner with Amazon suggests that plans to release a competing e-reader have been shelved.
Waterstones had previously been in discussions with US bookseller Barnes & Noble to bring its Nook e-reader to the UK. However, a source told Techworld that the deal fell through due to financial reasons.
The deal with Amazon leaves Barnes & Noble with no high street bookseller to sell the Nook, which was expected to be launched in the UK later this year. WH Smith already sells e-readers by Kobo, owned by Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten.