With Barnes & Noble.com's stock price in a severe slump, Barnes & Noble announced last week that it intends to buy up to $10 million of the e-tailer's class A common stock, "subject to market conditions and from time to time." The announcement had an immediate effect on the online retailer's stock price, which jumped 51% on Wednesday, to 77 cents a share. The jump was striking because it occurred on a day the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 183 points.

In a statement, B&N chairman Len Riggio said B&N believes that B&N.com's stock is "undervalued" and that "the company is making substantial progress toward achieving profitability through strong revenue growth." B&N.com shareholders have been pressing the company to take some action to get its stock price above the $1 level to avoid a possible delisting from the Nasdaq.

B&N noted that the purchases would be made "in the open market or through privately negotiated transactions." Since B&N and Bertelsmann each owns a 36% interest in B&N.com, and Bertelsmann's Internet interest has cooled dramatically, speculation was that the German media giant might sell part of its holdings.