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UK's largest bookseller will stop selling Kindles due to 'pitiful sales'

Amazon's e-book readers are being tossed out to make room for more books in stores, Waterstones MD James Daunt says.

Amazon's latest premium Kindle, the Paperwhite. Sarah Tew/CNET

RIP touchscreens; long live paper.

Waterstones, the UK's largest retailer of books, has said it will stop selling Amazon's Kindle e-book readers. "Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops," the company's managing director, James Daunt, told publishing industry site The Bookseller.

Kindles had been like "one of those inexplicable bestsellers", selling thousands one day, and the next selling none, said Daunt said. There is sometimes a "bounce" when this happens with sales perking back up again, he added, but this has not been the case with Kindles.

The e-book readers will now be pulled from stores in order to take back display space for things that are selling well --- namely, printed books.

This marks a reversal of conventional wisdom that calls for digital books and e-readers killing off physical books. Amazon's Kindle family remain popular sellers, although the newer models offer incremental updates and few new killer features, which diminishes the need to upgrade. But the Kindle is one of the more successful products in Amazon's portfolio, which includes the Fire tablets and the failed Fire Phone.

Waterstones' partnership with Amazon began in October 2012, a year after Daunt, who had previously run his own empire of successful independent bookshops, took charge at the retailer. While Waterstones is an influential name in the world of literature, Amazon doesn't seem to be much perturbed by the news that the retailer will no longer be selling its devices.

"We are pleased with the positive momentum and growing distribution of Kindle and Fire tablet sales," an Amazon spokesman said in a statement. The company noted that its products are still in 2,500 retail locations in the UK, while Kindle book sales are on the rise in the UK and US.

It's not just e-book sales that have been growing this year though. Sales of physical books for the first 37 weeks of 2015 were up by 4.7 percent on the same period in 2014, according to Neilsen Bookscan, a publishing research company cited by The Bookseller. This followed a report published by the same company in January revealing that sales of printed books had fallen by £150 million in the previous five years, according to The Guardian.