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Barnes & Noble to offer in-store access to Web site

The bookseller will install Internet service counters at its superstores so that customers can get online to order books or other products.

    Book retailer Barnes & Noble is giving shoppers the in-store option of buying books over its Web site.

    The New York-based bookseller said Thursday that it will install Internet service counters at its superstores so that customers can get online to order books or other products through its Web arm, Barnesandnoble.com. Shoppers will be able to pay by cash, check or credit card at the Net counters and may choose to pick up their orders at the stores or have them delivered.

    Other companies that operate cyberversions of their retail outlets, such as Borders Group and Virgin Megastores, also offer Net access at their brick-and-mortar stores. Borders is installing Net-enabled kiosks, called Title Sleuths, through which customers can access the store's database to learn what titles are available. If a particular book isn't available in the store, the Title Sleuth searches Borders' fulfillment center, which supports online and offline stores.

    Barnes & Noble's new service is one of three initiatives by the company to offer customers multiple purchasing options in an effort to increase sales for both offline and online operations.

    The company said its third-quarter bookstore sales are expected to show a minimum of 5 percent sales growth from the year-earlier period and that bookstore earnings are expected to meet analysts' estimates. It is scheduled to release third-quarter results Nov. 16.

    Meanwhile, a membership loyalty program, called Readers' Advantage, will give Barnes & Noble customers additional discounts and benefits at its stores and on the Web site. For a $25 annual membership fee, participating customers will receive additional 10 percent discounts at Barnes & Noble stores and 5 percent discounts at Barnesandnoble.com.

    Customers now can also return books and CDs purchased from the Web site to any Barnes & Noble store. Shoppers who use the returns program will get merchandise credits at Barnes & Noble bookstores.