Bertelsmann Books Euro Launch

German media powerhouse Bertelsmann AG announced
Monday its online books division has signed multi-million dollar agreements
for European distribution with America Online Inc. and Lycos Inc.


Bertelsmann AG is paying AOL $13 million to be the exclusive bookseller on
AOL and CompuServe’s European services for the next two years.


Bertelsmann’s BooksOnline, or BOL.com, service will be the exclusive
bookseller for AOL and CompuServe members in the UK, Germany, France,
Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland once it launches. A company
spokeswoman said
the BOL.com launch is slated for sometime early next year.


BOL.com expects to offer thousands of book titles in five languages and
will provide AOL and CompuServe members in Europe with editorial content
and search capabilities to locate books by subject, genre or author.
Content and
titles will also be customized to local preferences according to country.


BOL’s deal with Lycos Europe is an exclusive three-year, $10 million deal.
Lycos Europe will offer access and links to BOL.com and its country-specific
sites which include the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain,
Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy. Users of the Lycos search
engine will also be able to purchase titles online.


On Oct. 7, Bertelsmann paid $200 million to buy a 50 percent stake in
barnesandnoble.com. The terms of that deal also called for both companies
to pour $100 million into the site. In addition, Bertelsmann said it would
extend some of its U.S. resources to barnesandnoble.com from its previously
announced BooksOnline service. At the time, Bertelsmann also said it would
continue with separate plans to launch BooksOnline in various European
countries.


Chip Austin, President and CEO of BOL.com, said the
barnesandnoble.com/BOL.com synergy will unfold in the near future.


“Over time, we’ll look to pass customers back and forth. barnesandnoble.com
in the U.S. will carry U.S. titles and U.S. rights to those titles. So, if a
German customer wanted a U.S. book, he would get it from
barnesandnoble.com, not BOL.com, and vice versa.”


“We expect to see synergies as far as infrastructure, share warehouses,
etc. but we’re taking it very slowly,” Austin said of the
BOL.com/barnesandnoble.com alliance.


Austin said that with Bertelsmann stake in barnesandnoble.com, BOL.com will
not compete against it in the U.S.


Austin said today’s Euro launch of BOL.com was not so much in reaction to
Amazon.com’s recent overseas foray but that Bertelsmann viewed it as a
“tremendous opportunity” for the 160-year old company to take advantage of
what Austin said was currently a $250 million Internet market in Europe,
which he said is forecasted to surge to over a billion by the year 2000.

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