- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Borders Group Inc. yesterday jumped back in to the online retail business, launching a Web site after a seven-year partnership with Amazon.com.

It may seem unusual to some that the Ann Arbor, Mich., seller of books and music would get back into Web retailing now, after teaming up with powerhouse Amazon in 2001. The chain has struggled to fend off competition from sites like Amazon as well as bricks-and-mortar retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

But Borders said its new e-commerce site is equipped with features that differentiate it from rivals, beginning with display. Customers visiting Borders.com are greeted by a feature called the Magic Shelf, which seeks to mimic the appearance of a store by showing images of books, side by side , on a digital “shelf.”

The company will also use the new site to showcase its six video programs featuring authors, chefs, poets and a life coach.

Borders is seeking to take advantage of its physical presence - it has more than 1,100 stores worldwide - by linking in-store computer kiosks to Borders.com. Shoppers can now redeem Borders Bucks, rewards earned under the company’s customer loyalty program, online as well as in the store.

The new site was unveiled with high expectations after Borders last week said it may put itself up for sale. Soon after, Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation’s top bricks- and-mortar book seller, confirmed it was looking into a possible bid for the company.

“When I arrived at the company in 2006, there was no doubt in my mind that Borders needed its own e-commerce site to be successful,” Chief Executive Officer George Jones said yesterday. “We’ve invested significant capital and resources in the development of this new site and are delighted that with its launch we can move it forward from pure investment to a sales and profit generator.”

Under the agreement with Amazon, the Seattle company managed online sales for Borders on a site under the Amazon umbrella, as it does for numerous retailers. Borders had its own site, but consumers could only reserve items or check inventories there.

More on DTV

Each day, Channel Surfing receives several announcements related to the digital television transition coming in February. The past few days have been no exception. In recent DTV-related news:

c D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting a town-hall meeting today on the transition, targeted at senior citizens. The meeting, to be held at Federal Communications Commission headquarters in the District, will include FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin and members of the National Association of Broadcasters, National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the city’s Office on Aging.

c Sens. Amy Klobuchar , Minnesota Democrat, and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, introduced a resolution Friday that would designate August “DTV Awareness Month.” A press release from Ms. Klobuchar’s office cited studies showing that most consumers have major misconceptions about the transition, which takes place Feb. 17.

c One hundred days from Saturday, Wilmington, N.C., will make an early transition as a test market. At noon on Sept. 8, the area’s five local commercial broadcast stations will switch over to digital-only signals.

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