In a deal that had been rumored for more than six months, Barnes & Noble finally announced last week that it has acquired the book publishing company J.B. Fairfax International USA for an undisclosed price. J.B. Fairfax includes the Michael Friedman Group and its imprints, Friedman Fairfax and Metro.

The Friedman group serves as both a niche publisher and book packager; it publishes approximately 75 titles annually and has a backlist of about 500, while the number of titles done by its packaging arm varies from year to year. The company specializes in illustrated books in such categories as gardening, interior design and history. The Friedman Publishing Group will continue to operate as a separate company within B&N, under the direction of Michael Friedman. The company expects to continue to package titles for other customers and to distribute its titles beyond the B&N chain.

Alan Kahn, chief operating officer of B&N, said the acquisition will strengthen the company's presence in the niche publishing marketplace. B&N's publishing program currently has about 1200 titles.