i Editor's Letter: It isn't Waterstone's any longer


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The Independent Online


You are all truly back in a groove, with more to get off your chests than ever. Subjects exercising your mind this week include: the Scots independence vote – about which you appear split; plans for HS2, which you are against; the standard of teaching in schools, which I feel is being compared to all our yesterdays through rose-tinted spectacles; and the new i ad, which (most of) you seem to like.

I shall tempt fate to predict that a subject you will be agitated over in the next few days is the news that Waterstone's is to drop its ' to become Waterstones. It is easier without an ' in the web age.

Its name is now grammatically incorrect – tricky for a book chain. That said, it is a name. You can call yourself whatever you want – as people and businesses do. You may not like it, but even Xfinity, Everything Everywhere, More Th>* and Consignia, have the right to give themselves stupid names.

Harder for me to take is that the Waterstone's name change will be sanctioned by a man who has had a positive role in my recent book-buying: James Daunt, founder of the wonderful Daunt Books, and now MD of Waterstone's under the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut's ownership. Daunt Books is that rarest of things: a chain that retains the quirky charm of an independent bookstore.

Waterstone's was like that once, in the halcyon early years after its 1982 launch by Tim Waterstone, a former WH Smith executive. It is so difficult to explain to anyone under 30 just what a haven those first stores were way back in the pre-Kindle years. WH Smith and Foyles were a mess, albeit for different reasons. Tim, one of the more passionate entrepreneurs I ever interviewed, displayed his love of books in all he said and did.

The chain lost its way as it grew ever larger and was absorbed into the HMV group. Tim left a decade ago, so actually James Daunt is correct, it isn't Waterstone's any longer. But, whatever it is called, please Mr Daunt, turn it back into a bibliophile's haven once more.