October 16, 2009, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart kicks off online book price war with Amazon.com

In a bid to be the web’s low-price leader for all types of products, Wal-Mart Stores today started offering for $9 each on Walmart.com highly anticipated books that normally list for about $25 or more. Amazon.com countered with a similar deal.

In a bid to be the web’s low-price leader for all types of products, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today started offering for $9 each on Walmart.com highly anticipated books that normally list for about $25 or more. Amazon.com Inc. countered with a similar deal.

“At Walmart.com, we remain committed to providing our customers with the lowest prices available online,” Walmart.com CEO Raul Vazquez says. “That commitment extends to the nation’s best-selling books, especially during an increasingly challenging year for many of our customers.”

Vazquez made that comment yesterday, when Wal-Mart announced it would let Walmart.com shoppers pre-order for $10 each the 10 most popular of the books soon to be released by publishers. The lists are based on figures provided by publishers.

Instead of paying the $35 list price for Stephen King’s forthcoming novel “Under the Dome,” for example, shoppers could save 71% and have it shipped close to the publisher’s expected release date of Nov. 10.

After Amazon.com followed with the same $10 price offer, Walmart.com dropped its pre-order price to $9. Amazon again matched the price.

Wal-Mart, however, appears to be taking a more aggressive approach with its pre-order deal. It promotes the offer in a display on its home page and includes free shipping to a customer’s address with no minimum purchase requirement.

Amazon.com is not currently promoting the pre-order deal on its home page or book category page. The retailer displays the offer in a list of new books for sale, including books already available. Amazon is offering free shipping with orders totaling $25 or more.

Walmart.com is also promoting discounts of 50% or more off the list prices of the top 200 books already in print. Amazon.com is promoting discounts of up to 45% off the list prices of the top 100 books already in print.

Walmart.com is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Amazon.com is No. 1.

Amazon.com did not immediately return calls for comment.

Two other major online booksellers, Barnes & Noble Inc. and Borders Group Inc., also did not return calls for comment. Neither of these retailers appears to be matching the $9 pricing of their rivals, though each showed deep discounts, such as 40% off a pre-order of King’s novel “Under the Dome.”

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