Cover Stories: John Mortimer; Ottakar's

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The Independent Culture

* News of a possible Waterstone's bid for Ottakar's is causing dismay for publishers who regard the smaller chain as a breath of fresh air. Waterstone's ever-increasing demands for better terms, coupled with a growing pickiness over what it will sell, has hardly endeared it to publishers forced to pay through the nose for its in-store promotions. A successful Waterstone's bid for the 137 Ottakar's stores would give the chain 25 per cent of the UK market. Borders, which is looking to out-of-town sites, may want to consider its options. Fnac from France is an outside possibility to bid, and likely to receive a warmer welcome from publishers. What they certainly won't want is a further concentration of power. Many will be hoping that the Tin-Tin loving James Heneage, who founded Ottakar's in 1987, succeeds with his management buy-out.