Believe it or not, given certain recent events, Waterstones does not exist just to wind up the members of the Apostrophe Protection Society (what do you mean ‘is that really a thing’? Of course it is. It has been since 2001, with the vintage website to prove it). When it isn’t brazenly flouting the laws of grammar in the name of style (which I would cautiously estimate hasn’t featured highly on the list of priorities of the Apostrophe Protection Society for quite some time), the high street mainstay likes to try to sell some books.
Having abandoned its primary tactic for doing so some months back – its neverending 3 for 2 offer, which, finally succumbing to logic, ended in late August – it is now experimenting with new pricing structures and promotions that will see it able to compete with the reduced costs of online vendors whilst maintaing an ability to, y’know, break even. Its latest attempt? A book club. Sort of. Nobody tell Richard and Judy.
12 books have been selected as part of the promotion, all of which will be offered at a discount in every Waterstones around the country for the next 12 weeks. Each week will see a different title of the 12 selected as ‘book of the week’, which will be displayed more prominently than the rest for its allotted seven days. The first, starting this week, is Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English. The next 11 weeks will see the slot filled by: The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg; Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson; The London Train by Tessa Hadley; Gillespie and I by Jane Harris; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt; Pure by Andrew Miller; Rules of Civility by Amor Towles; Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams; We Had it So Good by Linda Grant; The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed and My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young. At the end of the first 12 weeks, a new set of 12 titles will be unveiled and the process will start over. All titles come with a ‘love it or your money back’ guarantee, which has no time limit.
Whether this will convince those who were in thrall to the 3 for 2 is up for debate. It remains unclear whether the book club comes with any avenues for discussion of the titles organised by the company, and that discussion part is generally a pretty crucial component of anything calling itself a book club. Maybe Waterstones hopes enough people will be drawn to the titles on offer whilst browsing that they’ll be able to find someone amongst their circle of friends who has also just read it, having been similarly enticed. If it works, then it’s certainly the kind of community spirit-fostering move that high street book shops need to retain customers. If it doesn’t… well, at least they’re trying, eh?