Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index is an American electronic commerce company based in Seattle, Washington. It was one of the first major companies to sell goods over the Internet. Amazon owns Alexa Internet and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Table of contents
1 Business model
2 Patent controversies
3 Expansion and partnerships
4 External links

Business model

Founded as by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the mainstream Internet's early days, the company began as an online bookstore. Bezos saw the potential of the Internet; while the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore might sell upwards of 200,000 titles, an online bookstore could sell many times more. Bezos renamed his company Amazon in deference to the world's most voluminous river, the Amazon. His bookstore quickly began expanding, branching off into retail sales of music CDss, videos and DVDs, software, consumer electronics, kitchen items, tools, lawn and garden items, toys, apparel, sporting goods, gourmet food, jewelry, watches, health and personal-care items, and more. Amazon assigns a unique identifier to all items it sells, the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). For books, the ASIN is the same as the item's ISBN.

Amazon's initial business plan was unique, in that the company did not expect to turn a profit for a good four to five years after it was founded. This strategy proved to be a sound one in the wake of the dotcom collapse of 2000. Amazon grew at a steady pace in the late 1990s while other Internet companies appeared out of nowhere and grew at a blindingly fast pace. Amazon's "slow" growth caused a number of its stockholders to complain, saying that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough. When the Internet "bubble" burst and many e-companies began going out of business, Amazon perservered and finally turned its first-ever profit in the fourth quarter of 2002. It totaled a meager $5 million, just 1 cent per share, on revenues of over $1 billion, but it was extremely important symbolically for a company that kept promising profitability but wasn't delivering. It has since remained profitable and maintained revenues of over $1 billion per fiscal quarter.

Amazon currently offers access to its catalog via web services, much as Google does to its search engine. Google also provides search services directly on Amazon's US site.

Patent controversies

The company has been controversial for its use of patents as an alleged hindrance to competitors. The "one click patent" is perhaps the best-known example of this. On February 25, 2003, the company was granted a patent titled "Method and system for conducting a discussion relating to an item" on Internet discussion boards.

Since October 23rd 2003 the company has been making it possible for customers to search for keywords in the full text of more that 120,000 books--33 million pages of text, all told. While there are public-domain book projects (see List of digital library projects), in cooperation with about 130 publishers allows users to search copyrighted books as well. To avoid copyright violations, does not return the text of the book but rather a picture of the page containing the selected reference, disables printing of the pages, and there are limits on the number of pages in a book a single user can see. The service has the potential to be extremely valuable to customers and may direct a large amount of traffic to, increasing both the reputation and the sales of the company. From the customer's point of view, the new search capability allows completely new ways of research. As people now google the Internet, they will be able to do the same with many of the books available on For example, one might search for the name of their hometown on Amazon and find a large number of references in completely unexpected places. Furthermore, references to special areas of interest can now be found easily even in books whose titles would not indicate a relation to the chosen topic.

Expansion and partnerships operates retail websites not only in the United States, but also in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan. In addition, the websites of,,,,, and now redirect to Amazon's site for the country in question, for which these companies are paid referral fees. Typing into one's browser will similarly bring up's Toys & Games tab. also operates the retail websites of Target Corporation's internet properties (including the online stores of Target, Marshall Field's, and Mervyn's) and provides the technology behind AOL Shopping and the online NBA store.

According to information in the discussion forums, Amazon derives about 40% of its sales from affiliates, whom they call "associates". By the end of the 2003, Amazon had signed up almost 1 million associates.

Amazon bought the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in April 1998, a move that upset a number of long-time users of the database; the transformation of IMDb from a public-domain, nonprofit site to a commercial venture was seen as a slap in the face to many Internet users. However, the IMDb has continued to grow and prosper.

In 2002, Amazon became the exclusive retailer for the much-hyped Segway Human Transporter. Bezos was an early supporter of the Segway before its details were made public.

External links

Amazon retail sites