A word or two to welcome the best bit of news that has come my way for years from the embattled British bookselling scene: Waterstone's is going to be run by a bloke who says that each shop in the chain will from now on "feel like your local bookstore, not part of a chain."
The new Managing Director of the 296-branch company is James Daunt, a former investment banker (shucks, we can forgive him that now) who created the highly successful London mini-chain, Daunt Books, 21 years ago. These six shops bucked the misery trend for High Street bookselling, with their cosy interiors, well informed staff and a policy of not heavily discounting to combat the internet.
The Russian mogul, Alexander Mamut, who has bought Waterstone's from HMV, used to pop into Daunt's Holland Park bookshop. He liked what he saw and immediately installed the individualist to run Britain's largest bookselling chain. Now Daunt says that his policy in running the company will be to turn each outlet into "high quality local bookstores."
With E-books still only representing five per cent of the market, he says: "My belief is that physical bookshops within the community have a real future if they're good enough; they are a very important part of the intellectual fabric of our lives, just as libraries are. I would be extremely disappointed if we were to close any."
Daunt adds that Waterstone's will now have more books to sell, following the stock starvation caused in recent years by HMV's financial difficulties.
So a warm wet kiss of welcome and a firm handshake to this feller from this particular hardworkin' novelist, who is tired of hearing gloomy news from the bookselling business. Don't be daunted, Mr Daunt. Go for it, lad!