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BOL to be phased out

9 September 2002

As part of the major refocusing of the Bertelsmann Group following on from the departure of Thomas Middlehof, his replacement Gunther Thielen has announced that the online bookseller BOL will be 'phased out'. It is doubtful whether there is much demand for abandoned online bookselling ventures, so this will probably mean that some of the BOL operations will be closed down. BOL in the UK, which has recently been made part of the BCA book club operation and set up as a club within BCA, may be the only BOL operation to survive.

In the UK this announcement coincides with the news that another online bookseller, Alphabetstreet, has been closed down. This appears to leave Amazon virtually unchallenged and confirms the view that the other Internet bookselling operations never really had a chance: Amazon was always going to benefit hugely from first mover advantage and from its focused and aggressive drive to achieve growth.

For the book world internationally, the latest news should be seen as encouraging. Random House, the biggest general publisher in both the US and the UK, will receive more support from its parent company Bertelsmann now that the Internet adventure is over. Bertelsmann's huge book club empire is to be refocused and revived, which may prove to be a difficult task in a declining market. But above all this sees a refocus by one of the giants of the publishing world on its traditional book publishing strengths, which can only be seen as good news for the future of books.