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Social media helping young people read ‘proper’ books, says Waterstones chief

Waterstones managing director James Daunt said social media is reinforcing the reading of “proper” paper books among young people.

Mr Daunt, who is also chief executive of Barnes & Noble, said social media trends such as ‘BookTok’ on TikTok had been “hugely positive”, as he was made a CBE for his services to publishing by the Princess Royal.

At an investiture ceremony on Tuesday at Windsor Castle, he told the PA news agency: “There’s been all of this innovation and change, but it has reinforced reading and reinforced reading real books.

“Certainly all the social media platforms – BookTok most notably.

“And then also audiobooks because they are (young people) listening to books as well, which is then promoting them to read more.”

James Daunt
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, after being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The founder of Daunt Books said the wider bookselling industry was in a stronger place than a decade ago when it was threatened by Amazon and the rise of ebooks.

Mr Daunt, who became managing director of Waterstones in May 2011, said: “During 2013-2016, everybody was discussing ‘the rise of the ebook and the death of the physical book’ and ever since then, if you look at what young people are doing now – they’re reading proper books, which is fantastic.”

Asked what was key to Waterstones’ recovery over the last decade, he said: “Ironically enough, by doing less and less – the whole premise has been that you let each bookshop do whatever it thinks is most sensible.”

He said that it was “tremendous” to meet the Princess Royal at his investiture ceremony.

Mr Daunt added: “The royal family have been huge patrons of literacy and reading so one feels obviously hugely honoured.”

At Tuesday’s investiture ceremony, British Paralympic Association chief executive David Clarke was made an OBE for his services to paralympic sport.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
David Clarke, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, after being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to Paralympic Sport, by the Princess Royal (Andrew Matthews/PA).

Mr Clarke, who represented Great Britain’s blind football team at the 2012 London Paralympics, said he had a “really good chat” with the Princess Royal about the impact of the 2012 Paralympics and the upcoming games in Paris.

He told the PA news agency: “The Princess Royal is well known to be an incredible supporter of Olympic and Paralympic sport and she knows very well what it’s like through herself and her daughter to appreciate being in that incredible environment of an Olympics or Paralympics.”

Mr Clarke, who worked in the banking sector for 24 years alongside his sporting career, said he was “super excited” to get supporters out watching Paralympic sport again, after the Covid-affected Tokyo Games.

“It’s a brilliant chance to relive pretty much London but on our doorstep across the water.

“We think Paris is going to do an amazing job – it’s in the heart of the city and we couldn’t be more excited to be going.”

He said he hoped this summer’s Paralympics would help inspire another generation to have a “positive attitude towards disability and how it manifests itself in everyday life”.

“We create this incredible gold dust on the field of play and we intend to use it as currency to help us change attitudes and behaviours off the field of play towards disabled people.”

Mr Clarke was a torchbearer at the London 2012 opening ceremony, passing the flame to Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first ever Paralympic gold medal winner, who then lit the Paralympic Cauldron.

He added that scoring a goal for Great Britain’s blind football team in their opening game at the 2012 Paralympics against Spain was one of his proudest moments.

“I got so excited I hugged the referee. It was an incredible moment to score that goal and have people in the stadium and around the world going crazy about Paralympic sport.”