Reading

If Amazon’s Kindle is such a success, why did Waterstones just abandon it?

By Oliver Smith 7 October 2015
Summary

The online retail giant always insisted that its Kindle eReaders are a huge success, but it's looking ever more likely that eReaders aren't the future of books.

Jeff Bezos likes to wax lyrical about the huge success of Amazon’s Kindle eReader, Fire tablets and Prime subscriber numbers.

Bezos is always keen to repeat the line that Amazon has sold “tens of millions” of each, but never keen to get drawn into any detail of exactly how many of each have been sold.

He is often spotted in front of graphs absent axis or figures, in order to dramatically illustrate the growth Amazon is seeing.

Today these hyperbolic statements were brought back to Earth with the news that Britain’s biggest bookseller, Waterstones, is pulling Amazon’s ‘popular’ Kindle eReader from its shelves.

The reason? Pitiful sales.

The emperor has no clothes

“Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops,” Waterstones managing director James Daunt told The Bookseller.

“It feels very much like the life of one of those inexplicable bestsellers; one day piles and piles, selling like fury; the next you count your blessings with every sale because it brings you closer to getting it off your shelves forever to make way for something new. Sometimes, of course, they ‘bounce’ but no sign yet of this being the case with Kindles.”

Daunt first hinted that Waterstones had seen sales deteriorate last Christmas, in January he said: “We did not sell many Kindles at all this year in comparison to last year… I think everyone who wants a Kindle now has one.”

Amazon’s response to Daunt’s comments was that the company is “pleased with the positive momentum and growing distribution of Kindle and Fire tablet sales” and that eBook sales continue to grow.

But we’ve reported before that eBooks just aren’t catching on with Brits, especially the 16 to 24-year-olds who will become Amazon’s biggest customers tomorrow (if not already).

Meanwhile tech publishing businesses hoping to become the ‘Netflix for books’, many of which we profiled in April, are either struggling to grow or shutting down.

The future of both physical and digital books is uncertain as our smartphones grow in size and look poised to dominate ever more of our reading time, but black and white eReaders like Kindle certainly aren’t the future of reading.