7th October 2015
Waterstones is to stop selling the Kindle e-reader in most of its stores in what industry bosses have said could become a watershed moment in the battle between physical and digital books.
James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones, told the Guardian he has removed Kindles from most of the books chain’s 280 stores because they were “getting virtually no sales”.
Daunt said the Kindle was now in “well, well under a third” of Waterstones stores and the space has instead been turned over to paperback and hardback books.
After a decade in the doldrums for physical book sales – which took Waterstones to the brink of collapse – the move highlights the changing shape of the publishing market as sales of hardbacks and paperbacks enjoy a widespread resurgence.
Sales of physical books in Britain rose 3% in the first half of 2015, compared to the same period last year – the first increase since 2012 – while sales of digital books went up 2%. However, the rise in digital sales was driven by schools and English language teaching, with consumer sales down 2%, according to figures from the Publishers Association trade body.
Richard Mollet, the chief executive of the Publishers Association, said the departure of theKindle from Waterstones stores could become a symbolic move. “Lets see what happens with sales of both [physical and digital], but in the future people may look back and say: that was the moment the market began to stabilise.
“For bookshops, it is particularly heartening. Publishers are keen for a place on the high street so books can be a discovery.”
Physical book sales are particularly resilient in non-fiction, where the popularity of cookbooks and reference titles means just 10% of sales are digital books. This compares to 37% for fiction.
“These sort of titles really are at their best when in the physical form,” Mollet said of non-fiction books. “They are also beautiful titles to have around the house.”
Independent bookshops are also enjoying a revival after a tough period since the financial crisis.
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