Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)

6 October 2013

Talking to a couple of Waterstone’s shop managers while “on tour” in the last couple of weeks has given me more cause for optimism about the future of that company – and indeed of bookshops in general – than I’ve felt for some time. Once the spearhead of the bookselling revolution in this country under Tim Waterstone, the chain has been the despair of most authors and publishers in recent years, centralising decision-making, selling the prime spaces on its shelves to the highest bidder and apparently more interested in selling gift-wrap and the latest Jordan bonkbuster than the books you can’t buy in supermarkets and WH Smiths.

However – hallelujah! – Waterstone’s has U-turned under its new CEO and is back on something like its old track. Managers of local branches now have a great deal of autonomy over what to stock and previously plummeting staff morale is rising again. The company is still losing money, but it has stemmed its catastrophic losses of recent years and is making optimistic noises about returning to profitability next year.

Although Waterstone’s shocked some of its most loyal supporters when it got into bed with Amazon and began stocking the Kindle reader, its revival has coincided with a slowing of the meteoric rise of e-books, suggesting that there may after all still be a place for print on paper in the brave new world of publishing.  And there will certainly always be a place for booksellers, whether a chain like Waterstone’s or local independents, who stock a thoughtful, carefully-selected range of books and can speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about then, and make recommendations to readers. After all, a passion for books is what should unite readers, authors and booksellers, but for many years Waterstone’s seemed to have lost that passion. Let’s hope it’s back for good.

If you’re in range of Yorkshire, catch us at one of The Inn at the Top events this autumn:

Tuesday 8 October, 7.30pm, Morley Literature Festival, Gildersome Conservative Club, Street Lane, Gildersome, Morley, Leeds, LS27 7HX, SOLD OUT

Wednesday 9 October, 12 noon-2pm, Waterstone’s, 102 High Street, Northallerton, DL7 8PP (Details: 0843 2908515)

Wednesday 9 October, 7.30pm, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, Ilkley. SOLD OUT

Thursday 10 October, 7.30pm, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, Ilkley. (Tickets, including two course supper and tea or coffee, £29.95  from Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, Ilkley,  01943 608029)

Saturday 12 October, 11am-2pm, Waterstones, 98 Westborough, Scarborough, YO11 1UQ, (Details: 01723 500414)

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am, Ryedale Book Festival, The Milton Rooms Studio, Market Square, Malton, YO17 7LX  (Tickets/details:

Thursday 28 November, (NOTE NEW DATE) 7pm, The Flying Duck, 16 Church Street, Ilkley LS29 9DS, (Tickets/details: 01943 609335)