More on Waterstone’s Co-Op “Scandal”


By Carmen Comment

Yes, there’s still reaction and fallout from the Times’ story on Waterstone’s co-op practices. Bill Godber, managing director of distributor Turnaround (whose client publishers include Duckworth, Arcadia, No Exit Press and Milo Books) said to Publishing News: “These increases in charges are very distressing for our smaller, independent clients. In recent months it did seem that the playing field had leveled out a little, but it’s difficult to see how any of them will be able to absorb such costs or risk such large sums of money on what, at the end of the day, is something of a gamble. The problem as I see it is that a large number of what we see as interesting, innovative titles that really do contribute something fresh and vital, can easily become marginalized, and choice is the victim. Of course, we all know that the big supermarkets do this sort of thing all the time, but I don’t think you can compare books to tea or toothpaste where brand is all important.”

Publishers have a number of concerns. They talk about a “credibility gap” between what Waterstone’s is charging and what they believe it is able to deliver at Christmas. As one put it: “They are going to have to significantly increase their share of Christmas to justify these costs and the problem is this: Waterstone’s have had two poor Christmases and WHSmith have had two good ones.” To that end, another unnamed publisher added “Waterstone’s is a strong brand, but they haven’t led Christmas for three or four years. They feel they can do it this year and that’s why they’re bullish on the rate card, but they have to convince a lot of publishers.”