E-tailers Duel on Shipping Charges

Q. Which came first, free shipping on two or more books from Amazon.com, or
free shipping on two more books at Barnes & Noble.com?

A. Does it really matter? One nice thing about online competition is that
consumers benefit.

That’s just what is happening in the e-commerce book store wars, where Barnes & Noble.com issued a
press release touting a new free shipping offer on “everything we sell” if
you buy two or more.

“Customer orders of two or more items purchased from the company’s
selection of books, CDs, video/DVDs, magazines, and eBooks will be sent free
of shipping charges to any destination in the U.S., including Alaska and
Hawaii,” B & N said.

Meanwhile, visitors to Amazon.com were getting
a pop-up window saying much the same thing.

“For qualifying orders, the price you see is the price you get–you’ll no
longer need to factor in shipping charges at the end of your order,” Amazon
told its visitors.

Amazon, which stopped short of issuing a press release, goes on to say:
“We’ve also changed our pricing on some books, CDs, DVDs, and videos: for
some products prices have stayed the same, for some products prices are
lower, and for some products we’ve reduced our discounts.”

The phrase, “reduced our discounts,” apparently is a euphemism for a
price increase without actually saying prices have increased.

Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble.com, said “we’re offering free
shipping without changing our prices or making any fine-print exceptions.”

Meanwhile, over at online bookseller Borders.com, standard shipping remains
$3.30 per order plus 99 cents per item. Of course, this being the Web, that
could change any second now.

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