From an interview with James Daunt on Radio 4’s The World at One, today.
“The digital reading experience [..] is quite alluring. You get this nice bit of plastic, and we’re all of us susceptible to new bits of plastic, but actually, you don’t have any physical residue. You don’t have the physical book at the end of it. And for me the great books that I’ve read, and the books that I treasure, part of it is the physical book that remains with me. It’s the feel of it, the weight of it, the typeface, the cover, the paper. I mean, I know all this sounds extremely fuddy-duddy but I really sort of passionately believe that. We remember the first book my first girlfriend gave me – I married her so I can say this – is a really treasured piece. It’s a paperback but it sits there.”
“We need much, much better bookshops. You should be walking into my bookshops and have a thrill of expectation as you walk into them. You should not really be able to walk past my bookshop without thinking ‘Lord, I’ve only got five minutes, if I go in there it’s a disaster because I’m going to stay there half an hour.’ Is that the case now? Well, our sales figures would suggest our customers are not behaving in that way.”
Given that the Daunt Bookshops are quite the nicest bookshops in London, eliciting precisely that “damn, if I go in there, I’ll stay there” response that Daunt talks about, I hope he can do the same for Waterstones, which was very much like that when the chain first got going, and before it so horribly lost its way. My local Waterstones (formerly an Ottakers; we lost our original and rather better Waterstones in the amalgamation) is a wretched shadow of a bookshop, which rarely has anything I would would actually want to buy.