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Online Bookseller Urged to Lose or Modify Slogan

Advertising: Barnesandnoble.com agreed to stop using the claim but has yet to remove it from the Web site.

July 14, 1999|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Disputing Barnesandnoble.com's claim that "If we don't have your book nobody does," a division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has called for the online superstore to discontinue or modify the slogan.

"If you were to interpret the slogan literally, it would discourage searches from other sources," Nicholas Vianna, advertising review specialist with the group's National Advertising Division, said Tuesday. "In the book industry, there are private books, local publishers, all kinds of books. Some of the independent sellers make their livelihood on that special niche market."

The American Booksellers Assn., which filed a complaint last December, compiled a list of 100 out-of-print titles and found 24 that were available only through competitors of Barnesandnoble.com. They included such obscure works as "Cartels, Combines & Trusts in Post-War Germany" and "Studies in Machiavellianism."

"A lot of independent booksellers complained because that slogan just wasn't accurate," said Richard Howorth, president of the ABA, whose membership consists overwhelmingly of independent stores.

Although Barnesandnoble.com agreed to comply with last week's decision, as of Tuesday the slogan still appeared on its Web site.

"We disagreed with the NAD's recommendation but chose to comply because we were moving away from that advertising slogan," said Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble Inc. "We agreed to remove or modify the slogan over the next several months."

Vianna had hoped for a quicker response.

"We would hope the changes would happen as soon as possible," Vianna said. "The agreement calls for compliance within a reasonable period of time. And several months seems too long, especially in the case of a Web site."

The National Advertising Division is a self-regulating body established by the advertising industry. Compliance with NAD decisions is voluntary but some cases end up referred to the Federal Trade Commission.

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