Fairfield, Iowa

The acquisition of Sterling Publishing by Barnes & Noble led two major retailers to terminate their relationship with the niche book publisher. Costco Inc. and Borders Group Inc. stopped carrying titles published by Sterling. They say Sterling's purchase by bookseller Barnes & Noble transformed the publisher from vendor to competitor. Barnes & Noble acquired New York-based Sterling for $110 million in December. "We had a good relationship with Sterling, one that worked well for both companies," says Jenie Carlen, public relations manager with Borders Group Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich. "However, there is a fundamental business conflict. Barnes & Noble is a competitor.

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