Barnesandnoble.com (NYSE:BKS) announced on Friday the launch of a new small business and entrepreneurs area of its popular online book store.
The new section will be hosted by Terri Lonier, the site’s “resident entrepreneur”. Lonier is the author of several small business books and the president of Working Solo, Inc., a firm that advises high-tech and Fortune 500 companies on the booming SOHO (small office/home office) market.
Visitors to the site will have the opportunity to ask Lonier questions, read her weekly advice column or browse the virtual bookshelves to see Terri’s Top 10, books recommended for those “going solo.” The section will also allow users to chat with other leading authors and view the transcripts from previous chats. PStill Number Two
In the past two years, Barnes and Noble, the United States’ largest bookseller has moved aggressively onto the Internet. While its online sales are still a distant second to Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com is now one the five largest shopping sites and one of the top 50 sites on the Web.
However, despite impressive gains, barnesandnoble.com must feel a little like the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz. The Jazz, led by perennial all-stars Karl Malone and John Stockton, is a team that has enjoyed tremendous regular season success but has been unable to wrest the NBA championship trophy away from Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the either of the past two seasons. The bad news for barnesandnoble.com is that Amazon.com’s Jeffrey P. Bezos shows no signs of a Jordan-like retirement and even after incredible growth in 1998, barnesandnoble.com’s online sales were only one tenth of Amazon’s.
The Survival Of The Fittest
Today, there are hundreds of online book vendors, but few offer the wide selection or low prices of the top two players. Many analysts believe that it is only a matter of time before smaller online book merchants are squeezed out of the market,and forced to close like small town shops in the wake of a Wal-Mart opening.
Even many larger players like the Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE: BGP), the number two bookseller in the US, are having a difficult time coping with the fiercely competitive book market and the changes created by online sales. Borders’ mall stores are reporting sluggish sales and the companies stock has taken a dive.
Last week, Borders’ CEO, Philip Pfeffer, announced his resignation after only five months on the job. Among its other problems, Borders was slow to recognize the economic potential of the Internet. The company belatedly entered the online book selling fray with the launch of its borders.com site last fall.
About Barnes & Noble, Inc.
The company reportedly has the world’s largest selection of book titles and maintains the largest standing inventory of any online bookseller with more than 750,000 titles ready for immediate delivery. In 1998, the site generated over 61.8 million (US$) in sales, a 419% increase over 1997.