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Arousing a browse.
Member Name: ADBoyce
Date: 18/10/02, updated on 20/10/02 (1110 review reads)
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It's at times like this when the Internet bookshops fail and the High Street bookshops such as Waterstones come into their own. You embark upon an experience when you enter Waterstones that gives rise to an indulgence whereby you come across hidden gems of literary genius. There's something about the smell, the ambience and silent hush of a bookshop that could never be replicated on the Internet. Waterstones is a store that appeals to your senses and the layout, design and atmosphere it presents conjure up feelings of being in a dated library. The commercial aspect is somewhat adrift, you can relax and read before you buy, you can read even if you don't want to buy and there is nothing to disturb you but for the niggling sound of the modern day checkouts.
Quite often I will venture into the branch of Waterstones on my University campus simply to wander round and see what items are new, if any books relevant to my course have popped onto the shelves or simply to purchase a newspaper. One of the distinctive features of Waterstones is its location. Almost certain to be found on the larger High Streets you will also find a branch in many universities up and down the
country. For that reason one store will be different from another. The branches located on a university campus tend to have a smaller selection of fiction titles and are usually littered with textbooks, stacked high on tables. The High Street stores tend to have a more varied selection of books ranging from the academic titles, to children's and the most up to date bestsellers. Waterstones is by no means a simple bookshop and quite often there are magazines, newspapers, CD's and book related accessories to be found dotted throughout the store. In the university branches there is quite often a selection of stationery to be had.
One of the defining features of Waterstones is its layout. The shelves are black and customized in such a way as to represent a traditional library. Depending on the size of the actual store, there are often reading areas set aside for customers and potential customers to browse through the hundreds of books for sale. I'm not sure if it is the case with every branch but quite often the shop will be housed in a building of traditional design, often with Georgian windows, spiral staircases and such like, hammering home the theme of the traditional library. Certainly the branch on Royal Avenue in Belfast and Princes Street in Edinburgh would support such a suggestion.
In terms of service at Waterstones, the staff tend to be exceptionally helpful. As someone once employed as a mystery shopper one of my assignments was to rate the level of service at a local Waterstones branch. You might like to know that if you request a book they are obliged to try and find it for you at all costs. Whether it is a case of ordering it for you, searching it from the store or simply locating it on the shelf they generally tend to be helpful on this one. Likewise when you purchase a book they are required to present it to you, in a bag, with the logo of Waterstones clearly visible to you when they hand it over. Alas it's customer ser
vice like this that we consumers come to appreciate and detail such as this keeps us coming back for more.
Price is the all-important factor when it comes to purchasing books (at least it is for me anyway) and Waterstones does tend to adhere to the recommended retail price for most titles. That's not to say it isn't competitive - when you consider that delivery on most Internet bookshops is around £2 at minimum, any savings you make on the price can be eradicated by the cost of delivery. Somehow waiting upwards of 24 hours for a book to arrive on your doorstep doesn't have the same appeal as perusing through shelves of books only to encounter your chosen title and sift through its contents.
Waterstones, despite it's traditional appeal, is a modern store making use of new technology to provide for the customer and as with most retailers you will find they accept most credit cards as a means of payment. Until recently you could shop online at their website but they've since teamed up with Amazon and the site really is Amazon under a different name. In days gone by you could order a book online and have it delivered to your local branch as well as checking availability of titles but I'm not sure that?s the case with the new Amazon venture.
My only quibble with Waterstone's lies in it's acquisition of the Dillions chain. We used to have a Dillions and a Waterstone's in the centre of Belfast and now we just have two branches of Waterstone's. The unfortunate aspect of that is that the scope for book signings is essentially limited since no author is likely to travel to two branches of the same shop within a few yards of each other. The same too can be said of it's venture with Amazon since competition is limited in what is simply a repackaged Amazon.co.uk
In all, there is a lot to be said for Waterstones. I find the element of nostalgia within the store as having a luring effect, drawing me i
n to buy books. There really is nothing to beat a meander through a bookshop even if it's only to browse and I have to admit it's something that Waterstones make enjoyable.