The battle of the online bookstores hotted up on Thursday when US retail giant Barnes and Noble signed up search engine supplier Lycos as a carrier for its Web site in a three-year deal. This came just days after Amazon.com, the largest online-only bookstore, sued its chief rival for alleged unfair competitive practices.
BarnesandNoble.com will be the exclusive bookseller on Lycos. Internet users searching for information online with Lycos will be led to books that match their interests as well.
The move is a counterstrike against Amazon.com, which has recently announced alliances with both Yahoo and Excite. In addition, Amazon has paid out $19 million to become the electronic bookshop of choice on America Online.
Both Yahoo and Excite boast larger market shares in the search engine market, but Lycos boasts an estimated 20 million users worldwide. Lycos will carry what it calls "fast and intuitive access" to BarnesandNoble.com?s online ordering capabilities, taking a cut of the revenues in the process.
Robert Davis, chief executive of Lycos, said: "This is a giant step forward in Lycos? ongoing initiative to grow our ecommerce business." Lycos plans to announce further ecommerce deals in the near future.
On the legal front, Amazon filed a suit last week against Barnes and Noble, claiming it is competing unfairly by failing to charge sales taxes on books sold over the Net. Under US law, online retailers and mail order firms do not have to charge state sales tax, unless they are selling to customers within the state where they are located. But Amazon argues Barnes and Noble should charge it to customers in any state where it has a terrestrial bookstore - almost all of them." The motion was filed in response to Barnes and Noble's own suit, filed in May, accusing Amazon of false advertising when it claimed to be "the world's largest bookstore", offering more titles than Barnes and Noble.
Barnes and Noble?s Web site was launched in May of this year as the high street store made a move into cyberspace to combat the success of Amazon.com. It also sparked a price war in which it discounts 30 per cent off all hardcovers and 20 per cent off all paperbacks, while Amazon.com offers discounts of up to 40 per cent on thousands of its titles.
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