Borders Group Inc took the latest step in the battle for book buyers this holiday season, promising customers it will ship items to their homes for free when they're out of stock in the company's bookstores.

The in-stock guarantee announced on Tuesday applies to books and other items carried on the company's web site. When a customer cannot find an item in a Borders store, the company will ship it to the shopper's home for free.

Borders said it believes the program is the first of its kind in the book industry.

The move comes weeks after an online price war for new titles such as Sarah Palin's upcoming book was sparked by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Meanwhile, Borders' main rival, Barnes & Noble Inc, brought out its Nook electronic reader to challenge Inc's Kindle.

Booksellers have had to contend with a lingering slump as consumers have headed online, especially to Amazon's web site. Borders has been getting out of categories such as music and putting a greater focus on helping shoppers choose books. It has also cut jobs and inventory.

Borders said it added children's toys and items geared toward teens, such as Twilight-themed journals and clothing, to attract shoppers for the holiday season.

Barnes & Noble, which runs the largest U.S. bookstore chain, could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)