Taking on the running of a chain of 290 bookshops in the middle of a recession at a time when the printed word is under so much threat from electronic devices might look like business suicide.
But James Daunt, who took on the role of chief executive at Waterstones when it was ditched by troubled music retailer HMV in May 2011, is unfazed.
Daunt, a wiry man with a taste for preppie clothes, is convinced that despite the collapse of American chains such as Borders, the siege mentality of the independent book industry and the crisis on the high street that has seen big names like Comet disappear, he can nurse Waterstones back to health.
‘What other product is so hugely enjoyable, appeals to everyone and also appeals to a demographic who by definition have more disposable income because they’re the best educated. Does reading improve your wealth? Well, no. But all the things that equip you to read widely and intelligently will probably mean you succeed otherwise in life.’
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