Varsitybooks.coM, an online college bookseller, has announced a joint marketing agreement with International Thomson Publishers that has prompted concern on the part of NACS, the college booksellers' industry group.

Under the agreement, sales reps from Thomson will pitch the virtues of Varsitybooks to professors, while sales through Varsity will help bolster the reps' bottom line. No money will exchange hands. "The relationship with ITP is proof that our model is working," Varsity CEO Eric Kuhn told PW.NACS members, writing on the group's online bulletin board, expressed concern about this development, as well as Web incursions into member stores' territory. Bookseller Amitava Mitra wrote, "I will be even more aggressive in purchasing more used ITP titles. We can keep ITP reps from coming into our stores."

NACS spokesperson Jerry Buchs told PW that the group is planning to take some unspecified action. An announcement was scheduled for Friday, after PW went to press.

Begun this past fall semester with a modest five-school list, has expanded its operations to include lists at 57 colleges, and has increased its number of available titles from 250,000 to 500,000. An arrangement with Baker &Taylor has allowed for overnight shipping to many parts of the country, a feature Varsity boasts as unique for a college cyberretailer.

B&N College to Join Fray

In other college bookselling news, Barnes &Noble College Bookstores will soon begin selling online. A Barnes &Noble college stores official told PW that the company is pursuing a "comprehensive strategy allowing any student to purchase textbooks online." Details are expected to be announced in a few weeks.

Asked about Barnes &Noble's move, Buchs said, "As an association, we strongly believe students benefit far more from doing their shopping through a Web site service that's provided by a local store."

NACS plans to roll out its Courseweb program, designed to help independent college stores compete online, within the next few weeks.