By LAURA RICH
A long-anticipated battle between real-world bookseller Barnes & Noble and on-line retailer Amazon.com is in the offing. Executives involved in the spring launch of the Barnes & Noble Web site say preparation for its debut (originally set for last fall) is now reaching the final chapter.
Interactive Bureau, the Roger Black-run new media firm, has completed the eighth incarnation of the site, which will be a departure from the transactional area launched on America Online last month. Besides selling books, the B&N site will offer an extensive collection of editorial reviews and recommendations, live events, and discussion areas where users can recommend books and join on-line book clubs. One source pegged B&N's investment for site development alone as high as $2 million.
B&N is hoping to attract publishers as advertisers on the site. Robert Raines, creative director at Interactive Bureau, said IAB designed pages for the site that feature ad boxes instead of banners.
To market the site, Creative Media Inc., San Francisco, has been retained to buy banner space and other advertising space on Web sites. i/o 360, New York, is producing ad banners and some portions of the site. One component of the planned banner campaign involves banner messages on book topics, with links leading directly to those sections of the site.
Raines called the site a 'much bigger beast' than the original model, which was primarily transactional. To support the grander plans, Barnes & Noble New Media was established and some 50 staffers hired for editorial, customer service, marketing and production departments.
One of the biggest contrasts to Amazon.com will be B&N's personalization and community-building features. Ten editors at B&N will review and recommend books in 23 categories, while Firefly software will power user-driven recommendations by identifying like interests. Executives at Amazon.com, which filed for an initial public offering last month, could not comment on potential B&N competition.
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