Bookseller Borders Group Inc unveiled a new concept this week -- a store where shoppers can mix and burn CDs, explore their genealogies and even publish their own novels.

The nation's No. 2 bookseller plans to open 14 of these stores this year as part of a plan to both close the gap and differentiate itself from industry-leader Barnes & Noble Inc, chief executive George Jones said in an interview.

"If you don't have something you do better than the other guys, then frankly the customer doesn't really need you," Jones said. "This is really intermingling the typical bricks and mortar with the Internet and digital worlds."

The new stores -- which boast more seating than current outlets -- are part of a turnaround effort that has seen Borders shut its underperforming, mall-based Waldenbooks stores, weigh options for international units and refocus on its core U.S. store operations.

The new stores feature a digital center where shoppers can download music, or search ancestral records through "Borders Genealogy Services," which are provided through a partnership with Ancestry.com.

Borders is also teaming up with self-publishing Web site Lulu.com to allow consumers to write their own books, with an eye on eventually selling some of these books in the new stores.

Customers, meanwhile, can print photos at the stores through its "Borders Digital Photo Printing" program.

Jones said the digital center -- which will have staff to assist customers -- will be an "income driver" because Borders will charge shoppers for the different products they produce.

"It isn't just a matter of taking best-selling fiction and trying to price it lower than the next guy," Jones said, adding that Borders is crafting a "a headquarters where people come for knowledge and entertainment."
Jones said Borders is looking to eventually expand the concept stores beyond the 14 it plans to open this year.

"If you have 14 stores open up, it's not going to impact earnings that much initially," he said. "The point ... is to build a better mousetrap that can be replicated."

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