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I have not yet seen it myself, but the Kindle owners are reporting that all the screensavers have been replaced by a Waterstones logo.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.
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.