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Top British ISP Freeserve is cosying up to WH Smith, top British High Street book retailer, in a deal that could lead to a "combination of their web site and a merger of many of their ecommerce activities", according to the Sunday Telegraph. WH Smith boss Richard Handover and Freeserve top banana John Pluthero have been negotiating for several weeks, the paper says, although an announcement is not expected until the middle of next month. The way the Sunday Telegraph is spinning it, Freeserve will buy into WH Smith's online businesses, and will also "help in running and expanding them". Freeserve will axe its tie-up with online book retailer bol.com, which sees it take a clip on each book bought through its Web site, in favour of a similar deal with WH Smith's online book operation. WH Smith will tout Freeserve sign-up disks in its stores. According to the Telegraph, Freeserve will advertise WH Smith's Web site and services on its homepage. We guess that WH Smith's free ISP operation will soon become a thing of the past, or at best a sub-brand of Freeserve. WH Smith was far too late into the British free ISP market. Now it must make sure that Amazon and Bol don't swamp it in the online book retailing game. Freeserve and its 1.5 million subscribers is a good start for WH Smith; the deal is worth sacrificing its free ISP for. ® Daily Net finance news here at Cash Register

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