How Waterstone’s killed bookselling

Excellent (and somewhat depressing) Guardian piece by Stuart Jeffries on what happened to Waterstone’s.

Waterstone's has embraced capitalism’s logic firmly. Even in this Gower Street branch, with its five miles of bookshelves at the heart of London’s university quarter and in an area denser with literary heritage than perhaps any in the world, discounted piles of Leona Lewis biographies and Frankie Boyle’s My Shit Life So Far sit on the tables with the latest JM Coetzee. This lunchtime, the three-for-two tables are ringed by shoppers clutching two books and wondering if they can find a freebie worth reading. Here on the ground floor, the discounting of book prices is so ferocious that if you leave having paid the RRP you feel a right mug.

“They simply treat books as a commodity,” says Nicholas Spice, publisher of the London Review of Books, and one of the chain’s sternest critics. “There’s no sentiment to it. If it’s celebrity biographies that are going to sell, then that’s what they’ll focus on. They’re not looking at it from a cultural perspective.”

What does he expect? It’s a public company, driven by the need to maximise “shareholder value”.

Thanks to Lorcan Dempsey for the link.