The publishing industry was taken by surprised yesterday when Waterstones announced an unlikely business partnership with Amazon for the sale of Kindle devices and ebooks through in-store wifi. The predominant view, which I share, is sceptical of this deal for Waterstones but it will be interesting to understand better as more details emerge. The announcement is well covered on Digital Book World who ask the question ‘Is Waterstones Mortgaging Its Digital Future With Amazon Deal?‘.
This is one of a couple of deals I’ve heard of recently that made me think. Faber announced a partnership with Mumsnet which I thought was a smart move. It allows them to tap into the strong Mumsnet community and offer writing courses to a market you wouldn’t otherwise associated with the Faber brand. Also in something close to home for my business Future Publishing and Anova Books announced a tie-up around the new craft magazine Mollie Makes. This is another deal that sounds good on paper and we’ll wait to see the fruits of this.
Success in business partnership can certainly be challenging. Foremost, there’s the commercial challenge of sharing in financial performance and once a partner is involved this inevitably has an impact. You need to be able to agree goals and approach and this can be difficult as partners will have a different focus or culture, there’s the question of who owns the customer relationship, is the partnership equal and much more to overcome.
Nonetheless, what I like about Faber/Mumsnet and possibly Amazon/Waterstones (although the jury is out on the deal for Waterstones) is that these have been driven, you assume, by people putting the customer first to build the opportunity. Once you do that, it makes it easier to agree on the difficult terms that always need tackling and you can focus on growth and opportunity that make the time and investment well worthwhile.