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Free Web access war between the bookworms

Waterstone’s steals WH Smith’s thunder by rushing forward service

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Waterstone's -- a keen favourite with UK bookworms -- has denied that it brought forward the launch of its own branded subscription-free Internet access service to spike similar plans by its rival WH Smith. An announcement due to be made this coming Friday had to be hastily brought forward after the story was leaked to the press yesterday. The new service will be launched next Monday as part of a joint venture with leading portal Yahoo! when bookish people will be able to pick up a free CD containing software to access the Net in any of the retailer's 130 shops. And as a sweetener Waterstone's is giving away a £5 voucher to anyone who makes a purchase for £10 or more using their Web site. A spokesman at WH Smith denied that Waterstone's had taken the wind out of WH Smith's sales and played down the importance of the news. "We've made no secret of our intentions," he said adding that what whatever Waterstone's proposes WH Smiths' plans would be "broader and more comprehensive." He did confirm that WH Smiths plans -- which are still being kept under wraps -- would be made public later in the spring. According to some reports, the Internet Bookshop (iBS) -- owned by WH Smith -- is already Europe's largest Internet book retailer. ®

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