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Bertelsmann to close German Internet book retailer

German media giant Bertelsmann will fold its Internet book club BOL at the end of the year after failing to find a potential buyer, company spokesman Gerd Koslowski said yesterday.

BOL had once hoped to compete with Amazon.com, the leading online retailer for media products in the US and Europe. But while Amazon has gone on to post annual sales of more than €3bn (£1.9bn) and profits, BOL has struggled to top revenue of more than €100m.

Bertelsmann approached Amazon about buying the German BOL unit but the online retailer declined to pay an undisclosed price for BOL's million or so German subscribers.

In May last year, Bertelsmann folded BOL into the group's traditional book club business as part of its new multi-channel strategy.

But last week, Wulf Bottger, head of Bertelsmann's European DirectGroup, which is responsible for BOL Germany, told employees of the German Internet book club that the unit would cease operations at the end of the year.

Whether Bertelsmann will succeed in selling its BOL subsidiaries in other European markets remains to be seen. In Sweden, the company is close to finalising a deal with an unidentified buyer, while talks continue in the Netherlands.

BOL will continue to operate in Italy and China, while in the UK, BOL has been relaunched as a new "online special club".

In its heyday, BOL was operating in 16 countries.

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