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Report: Borders Now Top Net Bookseller

By Nora Macaluso
Nov 7, 2000 12:00 AM PT

Borders.com has passed longtime leader Amazon as the top online bookseller, according to Forrester Research.

Report: Borders Now Top Net Bookseller

In what Forrester termed "a tight three-way race," Borders achieved a PowerRanking of 66.83 to finish just ahead of Amazon (66.76) and Barnesandnoble.com (65.46). Buy.com came in fourth at 55.52.

Borders topped the categories of transaction efficiency, cost, and delivery/returns, while Barnesandnoble.com led in ease of use and customer service.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester follows consumer surveys with its own online shopping tests to compile its PowerRankings of major U.S. e-commerce sites. Some 20,000 consumers participated in the bookseller survey.

Amazon's Edge 'Diminishing'

"While Borders.com only won by a tiny margin, the win demonstrates that Amazon.com's advantages over the competition are diminishing," said Forrester senior analyst Tom Rhinelander.

The ratings reflect a push by Borders and Barnesandnoble.com to capture a greater share of the online book market, while Amazon branches out into offerings like housewares and electronics.

Last spring, Amazon won in four of six categories, while this time the e-tailer topped only one area, features, which consumers rate as one of the least important.

Convergence vs. Expansion

Borders, a unit of Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE: BGP) has been working toward what it calls "convergence" of its retail outlets and its online store. The plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Barnesandnoble.com also recently announced a plan to link more closely with its brick-and-mortar affiliate Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), installing Internet counters in the 551 Barnes & Noble stores and giving consumers more options for pickup, purchase and returns.

Meanwhile, Amazon has been slipping, according to some analysts. Concerns about the company's ability to achieve profits while expanding its array of merchandise have surfaced, and the company's stock has fallen to $36 (US$) from a 52-week high of $113 last December.

The Finer Points

According to Forrester, Borders' attention to detail, such as its listing of whether items are in stock and its posting of the order total before asking for a credit card, has helped it unseat Amazon.

Additionally, while Amazon offers features like express shopping, the e-tail giant is slow to respond to phone calls, and inventory information is "vague," Forrester said.

However, other sites are not without glitches, the research firm said.

"Barnesandnoble.com offers excellent search, but the shopping experience is marred by irritations like the inability to cancel orders without contacting customer service," Forrester said.

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