Buy Your Kindle At Waterstones? You're Now Locked Into One Screensaver… The Waterstones Logo

from the Waterstones-hopes-you-love-Waterstones-as-much-as-Waterstones-loves-Waterstones dept

There’s no better way to treat your paying customers than by taking away some functionality. Most people would consider the previous statement to be completely full of shit, but when you look at it from the perspective of a proud bookstore chain that seemingly adores its own tasteful logo, it all begins to… Nope. It’s not working. The thought process involved in the following debacle seems to have short circuited somewhere between the marketing team and the IT squad, resulting in this bit of branding stupidity.

Remember how Waterstones was going to sell the Kindle and take a sales commission on the hardware and any ebooks bought from that device? Apparently they decided that the subtle but positive relationship of simply making money off the Kindle wasn’t good enough; now they’ve turned the Kindles they sell into billboards.

The Kindles sold by Waterstones got a firmware update in early November. This update wasn’t rolled out to all the Kindles, and for good reason. According to a couple different users (this story has also been confirmed by Waterstones) the only change in the update was a new screensaver.

I have not yet seen it myself, but the Kindle owners are reporting that all the screensavers have been replaced by a Waterstones logo. Furthermore, there’s no way to disable or replace that screensaver, so every time these Kindle owners pick up their device they will be reminded where they purchased it.

Advertising on the Kindle is nothing new. The ad-supported version is available at a discount if the buyer’s willing to put up with being advertised at in exchange for a price break. But, as The Digital Reader points out, Waterstones-branded Kindles aren’t discounted.

Instead, as thanks for purchasing a portable Amazon ecosystem from a brick-and-mortar, Waterstones’ customers are now locked into a single screensaver that will constantly remind them who they need to contact for a full refund… which, unbelievably, Waterstones is actually offering.

Thank you for your email regarding your Kindle Paperwhite from Waterstones.

I am sorry you are disappointed by the addition of a Waterstones screensaver after the recent software update to Kindle. It is our view that this screensaver does not constitute advertising and differs substantially to the advertising-supported Kindles available to the US market. The Waterstones screensaver is a non-dynamic, static image that will change infrequently and not advertise any specific product, offer or website.

It is not possible to remove the Waterstones screensaver to replace it with the former Amazon screensaver. We apologise that this change was made without consultation, and hope it does not detract from or alter your reading experience. However, if you feel it does, please let us know and we will arrange for the return of the device and a full refund.

I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Service Team

This should do some serious damage to what was already a rather sketchy hookup. Back in September, Waterstones’ CEO James Daunt made the following ostensibly cheerful statement announcing its partnership with Amazon.

“There are substantial difficulties for us around working with our major competitor,” Daunt said at the Independent Publishers Guild Digital Quarterly Meeting on Tuesday, according to The Bookseller. “But we think we have an agreement which protects some of the most significant bear traps that sit there, and there are some major upsides for us.”

Notably, Daunt didn’t say that the agreement protects Waterstones from “significant bear traps.” Instead, his Freudian slippage states that the traps themselves will be unharmed, even if, as it appears, Waterstones has to trigger the traps on its own.

The deal was never advantageous, what with Waterstones making the most money when purchasers bought ebooks using its in-store wifi network. It’s hard to believe this strategy of getting customers into the physical store in hopes that they'd spend part of the time shopping on their Kindles has paid off. Perhaps the always-on “W” is meant to remind customers where they purchased their Kindles and why not go have a look around the bookstore a bit then.

On the plus side, Waterstones customers were threatened with warned about promised some additional bonuses for their branded Kindles during this rollout announcement:

At yesterday’s IPG event, Daunt revealed a few more details about Waterstones’ Amazon partnership. “Waterstones-specific Kindle screensavers, bestseller lists and a Read For Free offer are among the plans,” The Bookseller reports.

That’s a pretty frickin’ specific screensaver, Daunt. Shame it changes so “infrequently” as to be completely undetectable.

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Companies: amazon, waterstones

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Comments on “Buy Your Kindle At Waterstones? You're Now Locked Into One Screensaver… The Waterstones Logo”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: hahaha

Or don’t buy Kindle, don’t buy overpriced e-books, get an Android device and be virtually immune to all this corporate ########. If Amazon, Sony, [insert company here] think they own my device and think they can remove content I bought or modify my equipment as they please then they can get their hardware and stick it in their arses.

Zakida Paul says:

Surely screensavers are a non issue? I mean, you don’t buy a Kindle (or other device, for that matter) to look at a screen saver. You buy them to use and enjoy.

Anyway, Waterstones are funny, they have had a few rants in the past about how the Internet is negatively affecting their business when, ironically, they put a lot of independent bookstores out of business when they came on the scene.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Surely screensavers are a non issue? I mean, you don’t buy a Kindle (or other device, for that matter) to look at a screen saver. You buy them to use and enjoy.”

Considering Amazon discounts the Kindle if you purchase one that displays advertising on the screensaver, I would be willing to wager some money that there has been at least one study that has shown people notice the screensaver on these devices.

More importantly, it would be nice to actually OWN something that I BOUGHT. Not that I would actually buy a Kindle, but if I did, I would like to be able to expect the functionality it had when I bought it would not be revoked by the company I purchased it from at some arbitrary time in the future.

I bought a new car a few months ago. I would be more than a bit upset if the auto-maker stopped by my office and painted “Mini” on my driver’s door.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Let me make this simple.

My car door is black. It was black when I bought the car. If they come and paint “Mini”, it is no longer black. To add more to it, I can remove any Mini logo from the car I want to.

If you bought a Kindle from Waterstone, it had a regular screen saver on it when you bought it. Then, they sent out an update that changed the screen saver to their logo.

They decided to prominently attach their logo to these Kindle’s in a way that the owner cannot change or remove it without damaging the device – and they did so AFTER people bought the device.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, I’d see the main problem as being the fact that they’re using the device as a free advertising stream, something that wasn’t communicated to customer up front. This strikes me as being more of a complaint on principle than any direct negative effect, but I’d definitely be pissed if I bought a non-discounted model that suddenly started showing the ads that supplement the discounted ones. It’s as much the principle of companies changing the way the device operates without warning after purchase, than any harm caused by the screensaver itself.

FWIW, my first Kindle was an older model whose screensaver was an rotating, eclectic mix of dead authors that couldn’t be changed. I didn’t really care that much but, as a horror fan, I didn’t appreciate the occasional comment from friends asking me why I’d apparently been looking at pictures of Jane Austen!

“Anyway, Waterstones are funny, they have had a few rants in the past about how the Internet is negatively affecting their business when, ironically, they put a lot of independent bookstores out of business when they came on the scene.”

I also seem to recall Blockbuster having major issues with Netflix, Lovefilm and other internet companies affecting their business model, despite them absolutely pushing many smaller businesses out of the market when they were in their prime. What do you know, large companies don’t like their cash cows disappearing when the customer manages to get the better end of the deal…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Surely screensavers are a non issue?

I’m sure they are a nonissue for a lot of people, but they’re a big deal for some. I would return the device over this, personally. I try to avoid advertising where I can, and would resent being unable to remove this form of it.

At the same time, I recognize that I am more allergic to ads than most people.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your book list or the book you are currently reading can be a private thing, and it doesn’t have to be salacious or otherwise embarrassing stuff. Some people might get queasy if they knew you were reading about bombs, even though you don’t intend to detonate one. Your boss might be interested in the fact that you are reading a book on how to get employed somewhere else, or about laws concerning working conditions, etc. Or maybe you just don’t want anybody to know you are reading Charles Dickens.

The great thing about these screensavers is that the owner gets to decide what is private. If you want everyone to know you’re reading list, feel free to share it. If someone else doesn’t, they have that option.

Michael (profile) says:


Do people still think they own something when they buy a Kindle?

Let’s get this straight right now.

When you ‘purchase’ a Kindle, you have actually paid for a license to use the device. At any moment, Amazon can revoke your books, the retailer you ‘purchased’ it from can change your screen saver, and I am pretty sure there is some fine print somewhere that says Bezos can send someone into your home and take the device away (just in case you have found some use for it as a paperweight, door stop, or to prop up a chair with one short leg).

akp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Kindle

Or put your own… ahem… Documents from other sources on it.

Amazon can only remove or change items that were transmitted over the wireless from Amazon. So.. everything you bought on Amazon and had delivered via Whispersync.

If you were, instead, to purchase and download your books either from Amazon or elsewhere, load them on your Kindle and keep your wireless turned off… Amazon can’t touch anything on your device.

Adman says:

Your invoice!

Dear Waterstones,
Thank you for renting advertising space on my Kindle.
Since you chose the “don’t contact us” option your rental for the advertising space will be at peak rate.
Please contact our advertising department to discuss a range of options that will suit your needs.

Daily rental “Kindle” ad space $1.20 @ 30 days $36.00
One off administration fee $45.00
Total for December 2012 $81:00

Please pay by 20 January 2013.
Thank you
Adman advertising Services.

theskyrider (profile) says:

Trap advertisement.

AKA: Ads you can’t get away from, or ignore.

On TV, you fast forward through the commercials. Billboards, no matter how flashy they are, can be ignored.

Enter trap advertisement. Every time you pick up your kindle, you will see the ad. You probably have to swipe through it or enter a key sequence to open the document. That is free advertisement to them.

Another example of the trap advert: The gas pump. You can ignore the credit card offers/rewards gallons/what have you plastered on the top of the pump. You can bypass the prompt for the carwash if you pay cash or go inside.

It is harder to escape the panhandlers/salesmen that approach you while you are pumping fuel, but usually reaching into the truck bed for the steel pipe deters that approach.

What you cannot do is escape the ~75db ad that blares at you from the screen once you start the pump. (I also could have sworn that it actually took longer for that gallon of gas to come out.) After a minute I shut off the pump and went back inside to the balance of what I had pre-paid.

The cashier actually quipped to me about how I didn’t need as much as I thought, and my reply was, “I don’t need the ads, I’m going somewhere else.”

It’s nice to be able to go somewhere else. As for the branded lock screens and special offers? there will always be something else to switch to.

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