Barnesandnoble.com Follows Audio Trend

Barnes & Noble’s Web arm — barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq: BNBN) — Wednesday became the latest online bookstore to add downloadable audio to its offerings.

The barnesandnoble.com Music Store is hoping to cast the widest net of all the online audio services, emphasizing its sizable classical music collection and variety of different jazz styles.

This latest move by barnesandnoble.com follows a month after Internet standard-bearer Amazon.com opened a “listening booth” at its site to allow visitors to listen to selected songs from newly released CDs available for sale. With the rise of a variety of downloadable audio technologies — and the concurrent rise in publicity online audio has garnered — it seems only a matter of time before all Internet sites that offer CD and cassette tape sales online will also offer either listening booths or downloadable tracks for sale.

Big Music Guide

The new Music Store also has the requisite listening booth, but rather than providing full songs, it only offers 30-second audio clips. Barnesandnoble.com hopes to set itself apart with a large music index to help shoppers find quickly the music, or music information, they want. Barnesandnoble.com calls its All-Music Guide database “the most authoritative online source for recorded music.” While that remains to be confirmed, its offering of 16 categories and more than 1,000 subcategories of music suggests it may live up to its billing. For example, instead of looking for “jazz,” the database can look for “Kansas City Big Band” or “Boogie Woogie” jazz.

The site features hundreds of thousands of albums, more than 20,000 artist biographies and more than 50,000 music reviews and album ratings. The site also offers editorial suggestions on artists with similar music styles. Listening booths are available for each of the 16 main music categories. The editorial services will also include live chats with artists and monthly columns by nationally known experts, such as The Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins and musicologist Doctor Demento.

Debut Deals

Barnesandnoble.com is kicking off its foray into downloadable music with an exclusive new track from Atlantic Records artist Jewel. The new song — “Deep Water” — is available free for a limited time. The special live version of the song, recorded during Jewel’s recent tour of Australia, can be downloaded using Liquid Audio, Inc.’s Liquid Player software.

The store’s debut also features a 30 percent off sale for more than 200 classical and jazz box sets. The bookseller said it plans to take full advantage of the new Music Store to cross-promote music with books, videos, computer software, magazines and other items it sells online. It will also endorse in each music category the “Fundamentals” — a list of must-have albums for collectors or for those learning about a new genre. Bargain music lists, Billboard Music Charts and the bn.com Top 100 bestsellers will also be featured and promoted.

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