Here's how a seller got its groove back. Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) has had little trouble winning over customers at its bookstores. Roomy aisles, inviting chairs, artsy eats, and a vibrant children's area make for an offline beast.

But things haven't worked out so well online. When Barnes & Noble launched its dot-com storefront on AOL Time Warner's (NYSE:AOL) America Online six years ago, it didn't take long for it to wilt before Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) fiery presence.

A year later, management nonetheless found a ready investor in Bertelsmann AG and the pair took (NASDAQ:BNBN) public in 1999. It's been downhill ever since. The stock's traded in single digits for three years now.

Last night, Barnes & Noble announced intentions to buy back the 37% stake still owned by Bertelsmann for $164 million. That's a slight premium to the market price but considerably less than the $200 million Bertelsmann originally invested back in 1998.

In any event, Barnes & Noble will hold a 75% interest in the eponymous dot-com store. Is that a big deal? It can be.

True, while Amazon grew its sales by 26% last year, managed a meager 4.5%. However, managed to shave its operating expenses in half. Thus, while Barnes & Noble will take a hit ($0.11 per share) this year to absorb the larger chunk of the dot-com store, it expects to be consistently cash-flow positive by the holiday quarter and in fiscal 2004.

You have every right to be skeptical, but the online landscape is beginning to embrace the offline retailers. Discounters Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Kmart (NASDAQ:KMRT) had to suffer through a few re-launches before getting it right online. Others like Target (NYSE:TGT), Borders (NYSE:BGP), and Toys "R" Us (NYSE:TOY) now just let Amazon run their virtual stores. Still, there's something to be said for any bricks-and-mortar juggernaut that can roll out its own.

Fetching just 11 times next year's profit projections, there's tremendous upside if can right its wrongs. If so, this should be another happy ending.

Will ever pose a threat to Amazon (or was David Gardner right in making Amazon a top pick in Motley Fool Stock Advisor )? Is the battle for mindshare over and Barnes' wit dimmed? Why did roll out the exact same $25 threshold for free shipping as Amazon? All this and more -- in the Amazon discussion board. Only on