WH Smith to launch Web portal tomorrow

Free Net access and all the usual suspects

Reassuringly familiar high street newsagent and bookseller, WH Smith, is launching its new UK-focused portal tomorrow, in a bid to tap into the burgeoning demand for the Internet. Among the standard services and content you'd expect from a portal, including subscription-free Net access, whsmith.co.uk will also become a "living library of educational and entertainment material." Perhaps it was this creative use of words in its press release that mislead one UK Sunday newspaper to claim: "Smith opens Net library" adding that it will "unveil a comprehensive electronic library" at its Web site. Now that would be novel. People queuing up to have their Web pages date-stamped and told: "Sssshhhh -- be quiet," if they got a bit rowdy while waiting in cyber-line. It may also be a great place for tramps and drunks to slope off to when it's cold or wet outside and all they want is somewhere warm to have a kip. But the idea was dismissed out of hand by WH Smith. "God knows where the Mail on Sunday got that idea from," said Tim Blythe, a spokesman for WH Smith. "Don't believe what you read in newspapers," he said. Quite. ® See also Free Web access war between the bookworms Web-based bookstore for UK from Bertelsmann WH Smith sets sights on becoming portal

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