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B&N.com to Create Online 'University'
Jim Milliot -- 6/5/00
Barnes & Noble.com has acquired a minority interest in notHarvard.com, the developer of the "eduCommerce" concept, aimed at using educational courses to drive more traffic to a company's Web site, and once there, to have users remain on-site longer. As part of B&N.com's investment, notHarvard will create Barnes & Noble University, featuring a range of noncredit courses available free of charge through the bn.com Web site.
B&N.com expects to begin registration for the classes this summer with the program set to go live in the fall. The e-retailer hopes to have about 30 courses available then under such headings as "life improvement," "arts & leisure," "business" and "technology"; eventually, B&N.com expects to offer several thousand courses. NotHarvard will find the appropriate instructors for each course, which could include authors. B&NU "is clearly not meant to compete with college courses, but is aimed at helping people learn more about a subject that they are interested in," B&N.com spokesperson Gus Carlson told PW. Materials needed for the course will be sold through bn.com; in addition to published books, Steve Riggio, vice-chairman of B&N.com, said the company could produce new materials by authors in either electronic format or print-on-demand technology.
B&N.com's investment in notHarvard is part of a second round of financing by the Austin, Tex., startup that has raised a total of $26 million. Founded a year ago, notHarvard has approximately 200 courses in its catalogue and expects to have 500 by the end of the year, Judy Bitterli, CEO of the company, told PW. NotHarvard's clients, which include Motorola, have the option of choosing a course straight from the catalogue, or have notHarvard create a course or courses specifically for a client's audience. (B&NU. will have a mix of notHarvard's existing courses and tailored ones.) NotHarvard d s not develop course materials, but lists recommended books and products that can be ordered through a link to a client's site or through bn.com. NotHarvard receives a percentage of the sale of materials sold for use in the courses, and also charges a fee for creating new courses.
Last month, B&N.com announced that it had named Michael Fragnito v-p, e-books. In the newly created post, Fragnito will oversee the expansion and enhancement of B&N.com's e-book capability, including the development of its e-book superstore. Before joining B&N.com, Fragnito had been senior v-p, production, at Penguin Putnam and publisher of Viking Studio Books. He will report directly to Steve Riggio.
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