By Edward Nawotka
The initial reaction when James Daunt was announced as the new MD of Waterstones (now sans apostrophe) was mixed. Some believed he was just what the chain needed — a smart, successful, if somewhat high-brow bookseller. Others felt he was out of his depth managing a national chain several multiples the size of his own chain of elite shops.
Today, Daunt finds himself often on the defensive — against Amazon, against those dissatisfied with the incremental pace of change, against the media who want to turn him into a celebrity of sorts. (Read Roger Tagholm’s revealing interview with Daunt.)
Several people with knowledge of a recent talk Daunt gave to the Society of Bookmen in London indicate Daunt remains largely unchanged by the new role, a man who has yet to fully embraced the role of cheerleader-in-chief for a community that was eager to be led bravely into the future. Yes, his integrity is intact, but in a world where perception can quickly become reality, is Daunt inspiring enough confidence in Waterstones to win over well-wishers and the reluctant alike?