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Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Dominate Holiday Sales
Jim Milliot -- 1/24/00

A survey of 541 Internet users conducted by Andersen Consulting found that 47% of those polled bought books via the Web over the holiday period, while 34% of the group bought books in physical stores. The company noted that the book and videocassette segments were the only two categories in which survey participants bought more items through the Internet than at bricks-and-mortar stores.

The results of the survey have been misinterpreted in some media accounts. In particular, Frank Rich wrote in the January 15 New York Times that the Andersen survey showed that the big bookstore chains are "being routed by the Net," which, according to Rich, sold far more books to consumers during Christmas than stores. Rich took the 47% figure to mean that of all books sold at Christmas, nearly half were purchased via the Web. The correct analysis is that 47% of Web users acquired books from e-retailers and, as Rich himself noted, more than half of the country's population has never used the Web.

In fact,the chains, along with independents, continued to dominate the book-buying field late last year. During the holiday period, book sales through Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Borders.com totaled less than $400 million, while sales through B&N and Borders stores were nearly $1.9 billion. Internet booksellers may have had a record year in 1999, but they still have a lot of ground to cover before catching their old bricks-and-mortar rivals (or divisions, in the case of B&N and Borders).
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