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Branson seeks to emulate success of Amazon

Not about to become an online bookstore though

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It's been a tense day at the UK headquarters of the world's most successful online booksellers. How were they going to break the news to their Amazonian bosses in the US that Virgin -- one of the brightest brands in business -- was about to become an online bookseller to rival the big A? "Branson battles to release Amazon's grip" screamed today's headline in The Guardian. "Richard Branson's Virgin Group has set up a global Internet bookselling operation intended to challenge the position of American-based Amazon.com as the literary colossus of ecommerce," wrote city editor Lisa Buckingham. "[The British store] will open in the Autumn with a larger range of books than that of Amazon. A spokesman for Virgin said it was intended to offer more than 500,000 titles," the report said. Snag is, the report was wrong. According to the Spin Virgins The Guardian has got its wires crossed -- or should that be knickers in twist? No matter. Virgin is not about to enter the book business. Branson has, however, just opened his online version of Virgin Megastore in the US and he does indeed want to be bigger than Amazon -- when it comes to selling CDs, that is. He regards Amazon so highly he uses it as a benchmark of ecommerce performance and excellence. When he says he wants to be bigger than Amazon, he wants music-selling Virginmega.com to be bigger than Amazon. The "500,000 titles" mentioned in The Guardian are music titles -- not books. Anyway, Amazon.co.uk holds more than 1.5 million book tiles and it's big brother even more than that, so there's no way Virgin could be bigger even if it was referring to books. Sources close to the UK entrepreneur say he regularly proclaims in speeches and briefings that he wants to be bigger than Amazon when talking about ecommerce. Hence the confusion. No one at Amazon or its PR company was available for comment. They were busy in a meeting and couldn't be disturbed. Apparently, they'd heard Branson was taking on Amazon and they were too busy to come to the phone... ®

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