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VarsityBooks.com falls in debut

VarsityBooks.com Inc. (Nasdaq: VSTY) ended its first day of public trading as a so-called "broken" IPO as shares fell 1/8 to 9 7/8 Tuesday

The online book retailer priced shares at $10 each, below its original price range. The company said Friday it expected to sell its four million shares to the public at $10 a piece, lower than the $12-$14 per share price range it had originally set.

VarsityBooks.com is the latest e-tailer to test the IPO waters. Pets.com whimpered in its debut last week, and is now down to 8 31/32, well below its $11 IPO price.

For the nine months ended September 30, VarsityBooks.com had a loss of $19.2 million on revenue of $8.9 million , compared to a loss of $1.3 million on revenue of $96 000 for the same period in 1998.

Though it's the first online textbook retailer to go public, VarsityBooks.com still has plenty of competition. Campus bookstores, traditional used college textbook retailers, some of which have or are expected to begin online selling, and Internet-based textbook retailers such as bigwords.com, ecampus.com (affiliated with Wallace's Bookstores, Inc.), efollett.com (affiliated with The Follett Corporation) and textbooks.com (affiliated with Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, Inc.) are all competitors, as well as established e-tailers Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq: BNBN).

The underwriters, led by Robertson Stephens, have been granted the option to purchase an extra 611,250 shares of common stock in the event of heavy demand.