[ PW Home ] [ Bestsellers ] [ Subscribe ] [ Search ]

Publishers Weekly News

Borders Online at Last With Books, CDs, Videos
Calvin Reid and Jim Milliot -- 5/18/98
'Preview' launch seeks customer feedback
The long wait is over. Borders Books and Music finally launched its much anticipated (and much delayed) website late last week, providing online shopping access to more than three million books, videos and music CDs.

The online book retailing market is now even more competitive, if that's possible, with Borders joining the other major online retailers, Barnesandnoble.com, Amazon.com and Books.com, as well as a host of second-tier online book retailers that all offer frontlist hardcover and trade paper titles for as much as 40% off list price.

Rick Vanzura, Borders senior v-p of electronic commerce, and Scott Wilder, director of Borders.com, emphasized that this was a "preview" launching to solicit customer feedback. They both emphasized that the site would probably offer new features and functionality (as well as more aggressive promotion) at a grand opening sometime this summer. Vanzura said the site will be used to "foster our international branding and to get the message out about our integrated approach to books, music and videos."

The executives blamed Borders.com's delay on the need to set up the company's new state-of-the art fulfillment center in Nashville, Tenn. The center can stock millions of copies of books, videos and music CDs. The Borders.com front page offers six subsites featuring books, music, videos, children's books, computer books and the Net cafe, which links the site's forums and bulletin boards. The site has a conventional commercial webpage design and loads very quickly. Clicking on the books icon takes the cybershopper to the books subsite, with its own highlighted titles, subject categories and editorial recommendations. Borders.com provides book reviews, synopses of titles and, once traffic builds, it will offer customer-generated book reviews.

Borders.com has an online database of 2.7 million book titles (1.5 million in print, the rest out of print). Out-of-print titles can also be searched through Borders's partner site, the OOP title finder Harvest Books Search (Borders is a minority investor), which has its own database and inventory.

Wilder also mentioned Borders' other partner sites and emphasized that "our list of partnerships will grow." Partners include the literary and cultural Web magazine Salon (Salon's Table Talk area doubles as a Borders forum; Borders has exclusive use of its books and music reviews and is the exclusive retailer for books and music on Salon). Other partners include the search engines Infoseek and CNET's Snap; the online community Talk City; the magazine Jazz Times; and the Rough Guides to music.

Nevertheless, these sites channel but a fraction of the traffic generated by similar programs at B&N.com and Amazon.com. Borders.com also currently lacks an affiliates program (which solicits sites to use Borders as a book storefront), though Wilder promised that one is in development.

A Cautious Approach

Even as Borders touted its venture into cyberselling, the company made it clear in its annual report that it was not placing all its eggs in the electronic commerce basket. The company stated that while it recognizes the long-term potential of e-commerce, Borders "is committed to remaining focused on building and enhancing our core retailing business. Our stores are the foundation of our company, and we will not compromise their standing as we respond to the opportunity of e-commerce." In fact, in the annual report Borders sounded more excited about international growth than Internet bookselling, noting that it believes there is "significant opportunity for book and music superstores abroad."
Back To News
Search | Bestsellers | News | Features | Children's Books | Bookselling
Interview | Industry Update | International | Classifieds | Authors On the Highway
About PW | Subscribe
Copyright 2000. Publishers Weekly. All rights reserved.