Waterstone's hints at surprise e-reader launch

Waterstone’s, one of the few book shop chains left in the UK, has decided it wants to enter the e-reader market. 

It confirmed to TechEye in a statement today, “We can confirm we are developing an ereading proposition to launch in 2012. We have no further information to share at this time.” So the details are thin. But Barnes & Noble decided to go down that route with the Nook and performed surprisingly well against main competition Amazon.

Using the word ‘proposition’ masks exactly what Waterstone’s is planning, but in a note to TechEye, we were told: “We just don’t want to nail ourselves down to what exactly it might be, hence the word propostion. Most people are saying ereader, which we are comfortable with.”

Amazon’s Kindle is still top dog in e-readers. The key to its success can be explained partially in its relatively low price point and the fact that it uses E-Ink instead of a screen, a Taiwanese-owned technology which aims to replicate the reading experience and eliminate nuisance stuff like screen glare and paper.

If Waterstone’s wants to compete in the market it would do well to consider E-Ink and, like Barnes & Noble, release a dedicated brand product which stands up on its own to Amazon and the Kindle.

Of course, the surprise announcement, with a launch date penned in for as early as next year, suggests Waterstone’s has had the plans on the cards for some time now and may have already found a hardware partner. It will need to get the mix right and undercut Amazon, unless it is truly revolutionary. 

Despite the plans, TechEye hears some people actually prefer to read hard and paperback books over sleek electronics. They make your bookshelf more interesting, for a start, as opposed to e-readers which, it could be argued, turn literature into a cheap commodity like the MP3 did to music. The other side of the argument is e-readers get people reading again.  

*EyeSee Main picture is of the Waterstone’s in Reading, where not much reading gets done.