Everybody knows that Amazon doesn’t release the sales numbers for their Kindle eReader. That being said, some analysts have estimated that the popular eReader will sell over 17 million units this year alone and that the platform as a whole now accounts for as much as 10% of Amazon’s overall revenue. That doesn’t mean that the Kindle is unassailable, of course, but it is definitely difficult. The Barnes & Noble Nook has proved both parts of that. Now, in an effort to revive flagging sales numbers, British bookseller Waterstone’s is going to try to replicate the B&N success story.
James Daunt, the Waterstone’s managing director, said in a recent BBC 4 radio interview that he was inspired by the Nook’s success in the US market. So far, Barnes & Noble has not decided to expand their eReader presence beyond the US in spite of the exceptionally favorable reviews of their most recent generation of devices, which leaves a gap in the market for somebody else to exploit. Lately, given the consistent downward trend of most of Barnes & Noble’s non-Nook numbers, this seems like a great model for an otherwise declining company to make a comeback with.
Right now, Waterstone’s does not have a hardware partner or much in the way of solid details in terms of their intended offering. Daunt has claimed that the company is “well down the planning line” on the way to an early 2012 launch are somewhat encouraging, but there is a lot to get done for such an ambitious move. This is a fairly late stage to be entering into eReading on short notice, given the high quality of the current generation of eReaders. Even the Kindle is sometimes only considered second-best by comparison these days. That’s a lot to measure up to for any newcomer.
Since the closing of Borders Books and Books Etc, Waterstones seems to be the only major brick and mortar book seller in the UK market. At a glance this seems to be something of a last-ditch effort. The Waterstone’s internet storefront, which has been selling eBooks for some time now, has failed to compete successfully against the Kindle’s UK store. A hardware tie-in would guarantee some returning business, but only if customers can be persuaded to adopt the new platform in the long term.
One of the biggest considerations for people seeking to build their own eBook library is whether or not their purchases will eventually be rendered useless by the end of a format or the closing of their chosen retailer. Whereas Amazon seems to be around for pretty much the foreseeable future, Waterstone’s will have to make a big impression to avoid losing customers to the fear of obsolescence. Add into that the overwhelming probability that there will be a new and improved Kindle released even before the Waterstone’s eReader comes to market and it will be a much tougher sale to make.
As always, competition is the most important driving factor for product improvement and customers should welcome a new serious contender to the eReader marketplace, but so far there isn’t enough detail to get your hopes up for.