New boss of Waterstone’s James Daunt has called online rival Amazon “utterly ruthless” in its business tactics.

Daunt, managing director of the UK’s largest high street book chain, told The Daily Telegraph: “Unless you are offering more to customers and are doing it better than Amazon you are going to lose.”

However Daunt, who took the reins at Waterstone’s in June after the chain was bought from HMV by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, argued that shopping at the online giant is “really dispiriting” as shoppers are “denying themselves the pleasure of browsing in a bookshop”.

Amazon now sells over 1.4m books in the UK – almost the same as Waterstone’s – at prices up to 40% below the high street.

Daunt is spearheading a turnaround at the struggling book chain which has suffered at the hands of its online counterparts. His plans including launching an own brand e-reader to rival Amazon’s Kindle device.