Last year, when nearby small business owners and other indie bookstores caught wind of the unbranded stores, they were deeply critical, saying the company was deliberately attempting to hide its ownership. At the time, the Southwold location had a small, handwritten sign in its window indicating its ownership: “Southwold Books is the trading name of Waterstones Booksellers Ltd.”

“We decided that as they were very small bookshops in very small towns, it was barmy to call them Waterstones,” Daunt told the Guardian in March.

In the US, there are more than 700 college bookstores operated by Barnes & Noble Education, a company spun-off and separate from the Barnes & Noble chain. These include old, beloved ones like The Coop, which serves Harvard and MIT, and as of this month, Moravian Book Shop, the oldest bookstore in the US.

But the Waterstones strategy is not otherwise mimicked by US general-interest chain bookstores—though perhaps it should be. It’s a smart move, considering that behemoth (and usually soulless) bookstores are under a two-prong attack from the efficient, everything-ness of Amazon and the return of the indie bookstore. The American Booksellers Association, which advocates for independent bookstores, says that in the mid-1990s, its membership peaked with around 4,000 member locations, and hit a low in 2009. Since then membership has grown steadily:

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