U.K. Kindle News Update: Why I Love Waterstones’ James Daunt

Good for James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones!

He stunned the book world on both sides of the pond last month when he announced a deal with Amazon to sell Kindles and Kindle eBooks in the 300 Waterstones stores. Many commentators helpfully pointed out that he had once described Amazon as a “ruthless, money-making devil.” What I see is a business leader following, whether he knows it or not, two maxims coined by Dale Carnegie, the power of positive thinking guy.

The New York Times obituary for Carnegie on November 5, 1955 contained this pearl:

Mr. Carnegie’s advice for successful living might be summed up in two of his maxims: “Forget yourself; do things for others,” and “Cooperate with the inevitable.”

The Waterstones director framed his strange-bedfellows alliance with Amazon as a way to do something for others, namely his customers, many of whom enjoy reading eBooks. As for cooperating with the inevitable, Daunt on June 3rd provided more insight into his decision in an interview with The Bookseller. He is not pretending to have arrived at any great new love of Amazon, and I like that. His explanation of the deal is as real as rocks. To wit:

“Amazon is the dominant force, it has cut a swathe and transformed our industry . . . It has a basic monopoly on digital reading and this will increase it and indeed perpetuate it and all of us have our doubts about it. In meeting our customers’ needs, we felt we had very little choice but to do it.”

I wish independent booksellers in the U.S. would try a similar level of cooperation with reality and consider an alliance with Amazon that would enable customers to buy Kindles in their stores. And as a lover of bookstores who no longer reads print books, nothing would make me happier than to buy some of my Kindle titles via the WiFi network of The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver or The Harvard Book Store here in Cambridge, with the stores benefiting from a dollar or so of commission or associate fees.

Somewhere in a cubicle at the American Booksellers Association, or in the back office of a courageous indie bookstore, I like to imagine someone secretly preparing a “Nixon Goes to China” book-world shocker.

If that happens, we’ll have James Daunt–and maybe Dale Carnegie–to thank for it.

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