Has The World Gone Mad; First Waterstones and Kindles, Now The Orange Prize…?

I don’t tend to do ‘topical’ too often on Savidge Reads but today I feel the need after the random double whammy of odd bookish news around Waterstones and the Kindle and what has happened with the Orange, or should that be the no longer Orange, Prize for Fiction.

I have to admit I was one of the people who did fear that the world might be ending when I heard the news yesterday that Waterstones, the UK’s biggest chain of bookshops, will be selling Amazon’s Kindle (or as I like to call it ‘the machine of the devils making’) in their stores. To me, as an avid book lover and fan of the chain, this seems ludicrous – but then again I am rather old school in terms of all things devils device e-reader based.  I understand that Waterstones have been having issues with people coming into bookshops, browsing the shelves, then seeing how much it is on Amazon via their smart phone apps instead. This must be incredibly disheartening, as well as business busting, for any company, but surely there must have been other options? I spent yesterday mulling this over silently for hours (whist nursing the sick, so I wasn’t just sat contemplating ha, ha) before decided to comment.

When James Daunt took over I was one of the many people who thought ‘phew, at last’ and having spent time hosting events and working alongside the lovely team at Waterstones Deansgate I have seen the wondrous changes that Daunt has implemented alongside his allowance of independence in stores, trusting that each branch know their customers and can appeal to them in the right way. Now teaming up with a company which is as damaging to books and the authors of course, as supermarkets can be seems a little odd to me? Or am I overreacting? I have even pondered if I should boycott the chain as I am so cross. That could be an overreaction. Though it would push me into supporting even more local independent bookstores and that is no bad thing is it?

Anyway here is James Daunt talking about it all, see what you make of it…

The other news that made me think the world has gone crazy, which was announced mere minutes ago, was that after seventeen years Orange have withdrawn their sponsorship of the Orange Prize, or they will have after the winner is announced next week. My initial thoughts are ‘well they could have waited and not over shadowed the winner before she is even announced’ my second was ‘oh dear, could this be another literary prize that vanishes like the John Rhys Llewellyn Prize did last year?’ my third was ‘well what will they call it now?’

Now in no way does this quite compare but I am currently working like a mad thing behind the scenes to make sure that The Green Carnation Prize runs for its third year in 2012. With the other two co-founders having left it is literally just me approaching all the people that I can think of who will judge and chair for free. For a prize that received over 80 submissions last year, and could do again this year, it’s a big ask. You get to hear the phrase ‘I am terribly sorry but no’, however I think I have pulled it off and an announcement will be made later today/tomorrow finally.

What has all that to do with the Orange? Well people will be cry that it is another award dead in the water; however I am not so sure. If the worst case scenario of no sponsor (unlikely if I am honest, I think Kate Mosse is very tenacious and passionate so will secure something) comes I am betting she will easily find volunteers, and I have found people who do it for free have a real passion for the book that makes them all the better book prize judges, they want to talk about the books and have a debate, they want to spread the word about great books. I am not sure I feel that way about what’s going on with Waterstones at the moment, maybe that’s just the cynic in me though? Thank goodness for the Fiction Uncovered list being announced tomorrow, that might be some less doom filled news.

What are your thoughts on this bumper amount of bonkers bookish news?

Note: I totally understand that for some people, like my Gran who likes to change the font of a book for her eyes, or have less to carry on her globe trotting adventures the Kindle is a good thing. For me however, not so.

30 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

30 responses to “Has The World Gone Mad; First Waterstones and Kindles, Now The Orange Prize…?

  1. The Fiction Stroker

    I wonder, can you see it as a necessary evil? You mention that people are using their smartphone to find books cheaper – is this move just switching from a smartphone to a Kindle with the hope that consumers might buy it that way? Or am I being a bit naive?

    I can forsee that Waterstones will move to become like a big coffee shop cum library with this shift – but I don’t think that’s a bad thing for two reasons. Firstly, at least there is a presence on the majority of high-streets that isn’t Tesco/Sainsbury’s for books and secondly, it provides a focal point for book groups and events like the Bookmarked Salon you run.

    I don’t know. I remain cautiously optimistic about the whole thing.

    Regards the Orange Prize however – terrible news.

    • I can see it as a necessary evil, just, and that is because of people going into the store browsing and then buying online, though getting wifi in every store might actually not stop that at all. I just seems that they are joining a company they can’t really compete with. Like I said it could just be me.

      Alas I don’t do Bookmarked anymore, it ay come back one day, maybe but Waterstones were in a real flux then and we just couldnt get everything sorted to the standard we wanted alas.

      All that said I hope it works I would hate to see Waterstones vanish.

  2. David

    I just read about the Orange on Facebook – presumably it’ll just be like when the Whitbread became the Costa? And, much as I enjoy following the Orange, I’ve never been quite sure about it as a concept.

    As for Waterstone’s – I was in Deansgate this morning and it was dead. There was one other person browsing in the fiction department, and two of the staff were worrying that it had been like that for the past two weeks (they blamed the football and the weather) but were hoping this weekend would be busier because there are “some big titles out this week”. Sorry to say, but I only bought one book whilst I was in and that only because it was signed – I eyed up a couple of others and decided to order them when I got home because I know Amazon have got them at 49% off. If I had a decent independent I’d probably be more inclined to be loyal to them but not to Waterstone’s who I haven’t really liked since the late 90s. I know plenty of children’s book illustrators who have been boycotting them for years due to their shelving policy for picture books which drastically limits the range they will carry.

    I’m with you on hating the Kindle though – I use my iPad for reading manuscripts (to save printing them out) and it is quite easy on the eye, but it is no substitute for a proper book.

    • Oh dear that sounds a little bit of a sad state of affairs, maybe its this Kindle news, loyal fans of bookstores have deserted, I am of course joking, I don’t want the chain to close, I just wish they would define themselves more as a brand rather than link with another.

      I can oddly imagine reading books on an iPad if I had no other choice and paper books vanished.

  3. Gah, that sucks about the Orange – that was the only literary award that I could bring myself to follow, and I found quite a few great new reads over the years by checking its longlist. I’d be really miffed if that meant it blinked out of existence now. (Even though they did not include Ali Smith’s wonderful and utterly brilliant There but for the into this year’s shortlist which is just… grrrr)

    As for the other news… not living in the UK I have to admit that I could care more about it, not even to mention that I recently had my one year anniversary as a Kindle convert. It does seem to though, that brick-and-mortar bookstores will have to find some way to deal with the rising interest in e-books or they might very well face extinction. I have no clue what an effective way might be, and I suspect neither does anyone else, but until someone does, bookstores will just have to try to cope and find new ways to sell books (or, as in this case, find new things to sell…)

    • I don’t think it is the end of the Orange, or not so Orange, Prize by any means. I think they will find a sponsor fairly soon, I think it would be huge PR for whichever company takes it on. The Apple Prize maybe?

      I don’t like to think of the future of the book shop too much in case I get depressed like I have today. I am shocked how unbothered people are, not you I mean people online on certain bookish newpaper websites.

  4. I am optimistic that the Orange Prize will quickly gain another sponsor, but I do think it was terrible timing to announce it at this time. But then this does give them quite a bit of time to secure the sponsorship they need.
    I understand your Kindle dislike, but I’m afraid I succumbed this past spring, after saying I never would, and while I don’t use it all the time, it has been terrific to use on trips. I also read on my IPad, but nothing will EVER replace the feel and weight of a book in my hands.
    And by the amount of people frequenting our local library it is the same way for a lot of people! Don’t lose heart 🙂

    • I haven’t lost heart honest, I was a little bit glum about it all yesterday but I have picked myself up about it now, so thank you for your thoughts.

      I don’t despise everyone who uses a Kindle, just so everyone knows.

  5. Louise

    Orange have gone absolutely bonkers lately!.. they’ve revamped their chat/message board service, and there is uproar there… must be something going on there.

    Now, the Kindle.. I was totally against the kindle from day one, I like to drool over a gorgeous book cover and flick some pages, however… I do like to read Indie authors (there are some real gems out there) and most of their work is in digital format. There are a lot of novella’s and such out that aren’t available in print so I decided 6 months ago to get the Kindle app for my laptop…. 6 months later, I have 96 books on there and I only paid for 2, and they were under £1!
    The laptop does make my eyes went to combust, so I think I’ll have a Kindle before the year is out… oh dear.. lol!

    I love Waterstones, however I’m not a huge fan of the new pricing system, I miss the 3 for 2’s. My store is very friendly and they’re used to seeing me mooch, but I rarely buy from there anymore. I usually buy online from Amazon now… yep I’ve been seduced by their lovely prices and super fast delivery. I buy an average of 4 books a week, this week, so far I’ve bought 5 and I’ve spent less than £15… and the week isn’t over yet lol!

    As for Indie stores, I’m not really into them. There aren’t any near me, but the few I have been to, had nothing I liked 😦

    Now, Waterstones and coffee and huge big chairs, I like the idea of that! Sort of reminds me of Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail… millions of books, and bottomless coffee.. heaven!

    • Orange have a chat/message board? Where on earth is that? I would love to natter to people on there, do let me know.

      You don’t like Indie stores, really? Why is that exactly? Bad luck with them in the past or what?

      I can’t see Waterstones becoming a coffee shop with books and surviving, libraries are struggling, why would a coffee shop library be any different?

      You’re book amount on your Kindle app is also something I think would bother me, ok they don’t take up any room like the physical book would, but don’t you find yourself getting free books just because they are free?

      P.S I don’t mean to be hurling questions at you I just find it interesting.

  6. mikewbn1

    I was very much averse to the idea of the Kindle… until I bought one! I now read so much more than I ever did in paper form and have read many new authors that I would not have done with my previous habits; I am also guilty of browsing in Waterstones then buying online.

    Basically I now buy hardback and ‘glossy’ books wherever I find them cheapest – online, remainder stores, charity shops; and novels in e-book form.

    At least with this move Waterstones will get a slice of my e-book spend in return for making my browsing experience easier and pleasant and they may pick up some of my hardback spend because I’m more likely to be in their stores…

    On a completely separate note – you met my friend Sarah tonight – small world!

    • Did I meet your friend Sarah? Where lol? At the W.I?

      I think if Kindles are making people read then that is great I really do, I have tried one and it simply didnt work for me at all. I could see the font thing being the only appeal. I like what you said about Waterstones getting some of you cash though hahaha.

  7. As a Waterstones employee I have to admit I was shocked to hear the news…but I’m determined to be positive about it. Everyone thought for sure it would be the Nook..and although in one way I’m sad it isn’t.. I think this is probably the next best thing. Coming up with our own e-reader just wouldn’t have worked. The thing is, we get asked almost every day by customers if we sell the Kindle…most assume that we do! So if that’s the case, why shouldn’t we get a slice of the pie so to speak?! I don’t see why Amazon and Waterstones have to be absolute mortal enemies… why can’t they work together and both profit from it in a way that suits most of our customers needs? I honestly think people are seriously over reacting towards this. I can see where you’re coming from but why boycott Waterstones? We’re still the same company, and Daunt really has worked wonders to make it a hell of a lot better than it was! I think we should trust Daunt’s decision, which was obviously a very brave one to make. He has always been quite outspoken when it comes to Amazon…and we’re certainly not being taken over by them, and the physical book side of things won’t change. Waterstones have to embrace the digital age or they will definitely go down, no doubt about it.. and the Kindle is obviously the most popular device, so it seems logical in that sense. And if people don’t like e-readers (many of our customers included) then it simply doesn’t need to affect them. Personally I’ve owned a Kindle for some time, but very rarely use it…the novelty wore off and if anything it made me realise how much I just love a book that I can keep for life and have on my bookshelves… But there’s no doubt e-readers are becoming increasingly popular.

    We all have our worries about this news, and there are obviously some issues that still need ironing out, but I think if you’re a book-lover then you should be supporting Waterstones no matter what…because if not then it will be a bloody sad day when some towns no longer have a single bookshop on their high street!!

    Sorry for the essay 🙂

    • I can happily say that my local Waterstones has improved almost beyond recognition, I love the new pricing structure with individual price cuts and I really love the range of books to be found in there again. For the books I buy there is often very little price difference between amazon and Waterstones, the loyalty cards narrow the gap even further so whilst I check prices it’s more usual for me to buy on the high street now.

      I don’t own and have no interest in getting a Kindle but if it suits others that’s okay and as far as I can see it’s allowing some good writers to get their work out there who otherwise might not get the opportunity in the present climate. I’m all for Waterstones trying this to see if it’ll work for them – though there’s still no chance I’ll succumb and buy a kindle myself.

      • I agree the improvement in vast, I particularily like the staff recommendations and events. I also like that Deansgate has gone back to being more ‘old school’ and like the treasure trove that I remember from my childhood.

    • I loved your essay! I don’t genuinely think that I will boycott Waterstones, I think I was just shocked and then oddly really cross and felt betrayed. Waterstones do a lot of things I like, the Waterstones 11, supporting things like Fiction Uncovered so I am not anti Waterstone at all. As I said I have seen the improvements of Daunts first hand with working with Deansgate so closely.

      Having heard your argument I am much more convinced, so thank you.

      • Great to hear! 🙂 I am happy again now, hehe. I personally think it’s a really exciting time for Waterstones! So many great changes happening…many stores getting refits and new cafes… wifi being installed and finally getting a place in the digital world… 🙂 I think Daunt’s doing a fantastic job, and we should definitely trust him with this!

  8. Back when I worked at Borders, we’d frequently have customers come into our store, browse for ages while making lists of what they saw that appeals to them, only to go home and buy them from Amazon. Broke my heart.

  9. kimbofo

    Two thoughts — and forgive me if I repeat anything mentioned in comments above, I haven’t had time to read them.

    1. The Waterstone’s deal makes perfect sense… for Amazon — they now have a bricks-and-mortar shop for their ereader and ebooks.

    2. Am not surprised by the Orange announcement because, technically, the company doesn’t exist any more — it has sort of/kind of merged with T-Mobile to form the stupidly named Everything Everywhere. Who knows, maybe Everything Everywhere will sponsor the prize.

    • I get the deal for Amazon, I am not so sure for Waterstones, I think that is where the puzzle lies for me.

      I didn’t know about the merger at all Kim, so now that makes sense too.

      • kimbofo

        Actually, the more I think about the Waterstones and Amazon deal the more I think it makes sense. I have been guilty of browsing in Waterstones, taking note of books I want to read, then going home and buying cheaper versions online. But if I was in the store and there was a facility — such as free wifi — that let me download a book onto my kindle there and then I would definitely use it. If Waterstone’s gets a share of the price then it’s a win-win for Amazon, Watersones — and me.

  10. petersandico

    Hello, savidgereads. I have 100% absolute faith in Ms. Mosse that she’ll secure a new sponsorship for the award. It wouldn’t be same though, as everyone’s used to calling this wonderful award the Orange.

    Now your idea of the Kindle as ‘the machine of the devils making’ , I am so with y ou on that! I am holding out on getting an ebook reader, even though most of the guys from my book club now own one.

    • I am sure new sponsorship will be secured, its a popular prize and I think this could see it become even more exciting actually.

      A few people in my book group own e-readers, I almost kicked them out hahaha 😉

  11. I have fought against e books in all kinds of circles of discussion however now I realise that e books are not an enemy, not really. First I think anyone who reads as much as people who frequent these blog sites will always want a book in their hand to hold. Besides the fact that so many people are aging (baby boomers) the font issue is not to be sneezed at. Kindle etc are great for that. Economically also these readers need books, they don’t want them, they NEED them. Addictions being what they are. E books are cheaper but another use for ebook readers is out of print books. Free downloads of lots of our of print books re: Gutenberg et al. Not to be sneezed at. IF book shops diversify into many different things they remain open. If they only sell popular mainstream books and nothing else they will fold. I try to buy one to two books a month from my indie store but I also buy online and download e books from library and net onto a kindle software program on my netbook computer I lie in bed with. I think there is a place for all of them but economically shops need to be open minded about all kinds of services. The alternative is your favourite shop closes up and then you have nothing BUT the net. Then how do you feel? Nowhere to browse much less buy. Just my 2 cents. Pam

    • I don’t actually think they are an enemy, I do see them as a possibly necessary evil. I totally understand people with sight problems or not wanting to cart huge books travelling, though I think that is part of the fun, with them on holidays.

      I get the out of print thing too, so I can see some reasons for them, I just don’t like them.

  12. Sue N

    I am a totally unrepentant Kindle user and likely to remain so.

    I would gladly buy books for my Kindle in Watersons when I see something I like rather than going home and buying off Amazon.

    I still buy biography and history in book form, but these days there is ridiculose trend to use really small, closely spaced type which rally puts me off – I put down 2 in Waterstones this weekend for that very reason.

    • I think if people can simply buy them in Waterstones thats fine. What initially puzzled me was why Amazon would allow someone to buy a copy of the e-book in Waterstones and not on Amazon, that is what I still don’t get. But time will tell.

  13. david73277

    Simon, I had a very similar reaction to you on hearing the Waterstones/Kindle news. I’m not opposed to ebook technology – I don’t have one myself as yet, but I know they are here to stay – but I am concerned about the stranglehold that the big A are getting on the entire book market, a dominant position that seems even stronger in the ebook field owing to the success of the Kindle. I really don’t want to see one company’s device killing-off almost all the competition, in the way that ipods did in the music industry.

    Waterstones have been in bed with Amazon before. You may recall that about a decade ago the two companies had an online partnership which meant that, in effect, that Waterstones were referring all potential online customers to their biggest rival. I don’t think that initiative was a great success for Waterstones. This latest move is different. It could turn out to be a masterstroke or it could be a disaster. As others have suggested, I’ll just have to trust that they know what they are doing. It wont make me less likely to buy paper books from W, but it wont make me any more likely to buy a Kindle either. If and when I finally do buy an ereader, it wont be one offered by Amazon.

    It seems unlikely, but those of us keen to keep our distance from the big A altogether, might soon end up regarding the supermarkets as the champions of real world book selling? Perhaps the Orange prize could become the Sainsbury’s prize?

    • It is interesting you mention iPods. I was adamant I would never have an iPod and that I would always buy CDs however I now have an iPod, iPhone and I haven’t bought a CD in years physically. Plus weirdly I think it has shaken the music industry up which I like.

      That said I don’t see that this works with books. Yet that is what Amazon are trying to do, but I think it will make the book charts worse. That said I would check the paper editions of the book charts anyway.

      Supermarkets as the champions of bookselling, oh shit! Lol.

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