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March 3, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

Bertelsmann AG yesterday launched the English-language site of its e-commerce venture, Books on Line (BOL), at a press conference in London.The media firm launched French and German sites last month and plans to launch Dutch and Spanish sites in the Netherlands and Spain by the end of the year. Heinz Wermelinger, BOL’s International CEO and president said that BOL has further plans to expand into Latin America with its French and Spanish language sites as well as to expand into Asia. Dr Klaus Eierhoff, Bertelsmann board member and head of the company’s Multimedia division, E-commerce will be one of our future core businesses…and BOL will be part of this expansion. BOL currently offers only books, but Bertelsmann says the brand is intended to be a channel for all media products including music, video and games. Bertelsmann also announced this week, its planned joint venture with German telephone company, Viag Interkom, that will offer a games web site Game Channel in April of this year. The two services could eventually be linked, but Eierhoff said the Game Channel was too young to consider this in the short term. Amazon gave a characteristically guarded response to the launch of its only serious European contender. Simon Murdoch, managing director and, said Amazon has always said that there is room for more than one successful brand in e-commerce…we remain focused on providing the best possible shopping experience and this is the way we will win and keep customers. But Bertelsmann claim that it is BOL that will offer the best shopping experience as well as the largest selection of titles and discounts of up to 40% on retail prices – which match Amazon’s largest discount rates. Bertelsmann also has a much more aggressive approach to both the level and type of service it offers and to advertising it. Eierhoff says that though Bertelsmann will consider all advertising media, it is on line advertising that is the key. With on line advertising you know the viewer has a computer and surfs the web, Eierhoff said.

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