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Web-based bookstore for UK from Bertelsmann

Media behemoth to rope in existing Net presence to rival Amazon and WH Smith

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Bertelsmann is to open an online bookstore in the UK before the end of the month to rival Amazon.co.uk and the WH Smiths-owned Internet Bookshop. Sources close to the world's third largest media company said an announcement would be made within the "next few weeks". As well as offering books, the site, Books Online (BOL), is also likely to offer music and videos, although the full extent of the items on offer is still being kept under wraps. Bertelsmann will also announce a number of partnerships within the UK to help promote the Web store, although a spokesman for the company refused to reveal exactly who was involved. But since the Bertelsmann empire includes AOL UK, CompuServe UK and Lycos UK, you don't have to look too far to see which Web sites will be at the top of the list of partners. News that the UK is to get yet another major online bookstore may seem like market saturation to some, but according to Nick Gibson, analyst at Durlacher Research, there is still a significant gap between the number of people who want to buy books online, and those who actually have. The fact that demand is not being met shows that there simply isn't enough choice on the Web, said Gibson. News that Bertelsmann was to launch its BOL online bookstore in the UK had been known for some time but no one knew exactly when it would be open for business. Yesterday, Bertelsmann launched BOL online bookstore in Germany and France adding that it had set aside $300 million to develop BOL's European activities. ®

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