Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Waterstones showrooming for Amazon

A few months ago I talked about the notion of showrooming, in which customers walk into a bricks-and-mortar retailer establishment, play with/read the merchandise, and walk out without spending any money. They don't need to. They're using the store as a showroom, a place to familiarise themselves with what's available; they then buy what they like at a discount from an online retailer.

At the time, I suggested that booksellers leverage their expertise and retail space, cooperate with other entities (either said online retailers or author collectives or publishers), and embrace the paradigm.

Waterstones, a UK book chain, has just done that:

Waterstones has announced a surprise tie-up with Amazon that will enable shoppers to pluck ebooks as well as physical books from its shelves.
The companies did not reveal the terms of the deal, but Waterstones said it was planning a digital revolution in its stores, with Kindle e-readers on sale for the first time and free Wi-Fi, so customers can choose between buying a physical book or downloading it there and then. It is also opening instore cafes as part of an upgrade of the 30-year old chain.
I can only surmise that they were offered a hell of a financial incentive for this. I can't begin to guess how much would make the hastening of their business model death worth it.

There again, they might have some kind of secret master plan I can't fathom right now. I hope so. I'd like to see them survive.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to see if the rumours of an Amazon-only showroom is true.
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