I despise Waterstones bookshops, despite being an Author.
I also love books, love walking around them, holding them, smelling them, feeling them, being immersed in all that creative thinking, colour, and commitment to bringing the imagination to inquisitive minds.
I love everything about books and the stories they contain. But I hate Waterstones.
They gave up on eBooks in 2016 (around that time). They stopped selling the Kindle. They redirected people to Kobo (Canadian) for eBooks.
6 years later, the eBook market is huge. And Waterstones does not stock or support the reading of eBooks. Even though they know their customers read them. They have chosen to exclude any reader who prefers that medium to read a book.
How fucked is that?
And it’s why I hate Waterstones. I have one in my city and I frequently walk around it, photograph covers, and get inspired to write, read, and want to share good books with others. The only thing missing from this joyous experience is the purchase. I never, never purchase a book. I can’t. They won’t serve me in my chosen format.
How fucked is that?
It’s like walking around a Blockbuster video store whilst seeing Netflix grow. What possesses them to not stock a storytelling format?
Oh, wait, I know. It’s because Waterstones isn’t a bookshop. It’s a brochure for the Publishers. A bit like that pub on the high street that only stocks beers from the brewery which owns it. Waterstones cannot support digital reading because it is a front for the traditional publishing cartel. They want digital to fail, and paper to win. Simple. They are all against Amazon, despite everyone knowing that Amazon will win. It’s like the Publishers are trying to deny the incoming tide or the flames in the corner of the room.
Waterstones wants you to support it. To support reading. To support paper. Paper only. And I can’t, and that makes me sad and angry at them. Because I am their customer.
The solution I need is to sell me the damn eBook, right there in the shop. The format is available. I can buy it online. Often I want the paperback version. I want to hold it, place it on my shelf, and reference it, but I want the ebook too.
I should get the eBook for free if I buy the paperback. It would literally cost them nothing to do that. I know because I publish my own stories, and creating a digital version of a story is a one-click process once the manuscript is ready for publication. They can’t lie to me. Let me repeat: I know how simple the publishing and distribution process is! It is one click. I do it all the time.
But no. Waterstones will not support it, because they’re an outlet for the traditional publishing industry. The industry hates eBooks.
So I’m stuck. I walk around Waterstones like it’s a failing Blockbuster. Taking photos of the books on the shelves, hoping, hoping that one day a news article will pop up in my feed with a huge announcement that their contract with the big publishers is ending with immediate effect, and they’re only going to be selling titles from established and independent publishers and authors who agree to the new terms to sell eBooks alongside paperbacks.
Overnight the shelves of bookshops everywhere will change. Gone will be massive established authors, and they’ll complain, and publishers will withdraw all their titles whilst the shelves are stocked with fresh books from authors we’ve never heard of. And then Waterstones will be exciting to walk around. It’ll be fresh, wild, and dangerous. We’ll discover stories and authors we love and hate, but we’ll be fed new ideas, new writing, and new voices that literally could not get in the door previously.
Oh, how I long for that day.