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Shortly after the first Kindle launched, Amazon premiered its Kindle Direct Publishing platform to let authors self-publish and sell books on Amazon. Two years later, the company launched its own suite of professional imprints called Amazon Publishing. Amazon now oversees tens of millions of self-published works on its platform and nearly two dozen imprints. In 2017, Amazon had more than 83 percent of all US ebook sales.
In the course of a single generation, Amazon has grown from fledgling online bookseller to one of the most valuable and powerful corporations in modern history. The empire of CEO Jeff Bezos has grown so vast that critics, overseas regulators, and Washington politicians are all now wondering whether the company has become an unstoppable force, and what, if anything, is capable of reining in its reach. A recent spat with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) resulted in a minimum wage hike for tens of thousands of employees, but Amazon still operates largely without any meaningful checks on its power even as it aggressively expands into physical retail, the smart home, and warehouse and aviation robotics.
Junglee is a former online shopping service provided by Amazon that enabled customers to search for products from online and offline retailers in India. Junglee started off as a virtual database that was used to extract information off the internet and deliver it to enterprise applications. As it progressed, Junglee started to use its database technology to create a single window marketplace on the internet by making every item from every supplier available for purchase. Web shoppers could locate, compare and transact millions of products from across the Internet shopping mall through one window.
Twitch is a live streaming platform for video, primarily oriented towards video gaming content. The service was first established as a spin-off of a general-interest streaming service known as Justin.tv. Its prominence was eclipsed by that of Twitch, and Justin.tv was eventually shut down by its parent company in August 2014 in order to focus exclusively on Twitch. Later that month, Twitch was acquired by Amazon for $970 million. Through Twitch, Amazon also owns Curse, Inc., an operator of video gaming communities and a provider of VoIP services for gaming. Since the acquisition, Twitch began to sell games directly through the platform, and began offering special features for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary; he settled on "Amazon" because it was a place that was "exotic and different", just as he had envisioned for his Internet enterprise. The Amazon River, he noted, was the biggest river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest bookstore in the world. Additionally, a name that began with "A" was preferential due to the probability it would occur at the top of an alphabetized list. Bezos placed a premium on his head start in building a brand and told a reporter, "There's nothing about our model that can't be copied over time. But you know, McDonald's got copied. And it's still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world."
In July 1995, the company began service as an online bookstore. The first book sold on Amazon.com was Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. In the first two months of business, Amazon sold to all 50 states and over 45 countries. Within two months, Amazon's sales were up to $20,000/week. In October 1995, the company announced itself to the public. In 1996, it was reincorporated in Delaware. Amazon issued its initial public offering of stock on May 15, 1997, at $18 per share, trading under the NASDAQ stock exchange symbol AMZN.
On January 22, 2018, Amazon Go, a store that uses cameras and sensors to detect items that a shopper grabs off shelves and automatically charges a shopper's Amazon account, was opened to the general public in Seattle. Customers scan their Amazon Go app as they enter, and are required to have an Amazon Go app installed on their smartphone and a linked Amazon account to be able to enter. The technology is meant to eliminate the need for checkout lines. Amazon Go was initially opened for Amazon employees in December 2016. In August 2018, the second Amazon Go store opened its doors.
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Amazon now has more than 100 private label brands, some without the name Amazon even remotely attached, for product categories like clothing, dog food, and furniture. Yet AmazonBasics, and the Amazon Essentials clothing brand, remain the company’s biggest weapons in its war against offline retail. Just as Walmart, Target, and other stores launched their own private label brands for virtually every product imaginable, the company has done the same. (In 2015, it also launched an official Etsy competitor in the form of Amazon Homemade.)
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On July 5, 1994, Bezos initially incorporated the company in Washington State with the name Cadabra, Inc. He later changed the name to Amazon.com, Inc. a few months later, after a lawyer misheard its original name as "cadaver". In September 1994, Bezos purchased the URL Relentless.com and briefly considered naming his online store Relentless, but friends told him the name sounded a bit sinister. The domain is still owned by Bezos and still redirects to the retailer.
In November 2013, Amazon.com announced a partnership with the United States Postal Service to begin delivering orders on Sundays. The service, included in Amazon's standard shipping rates, initiated in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and New York due to the high-volume and inability to deliver timely, with plans to expand into Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix by 2014.
While sites like eBay and Craigslist allow you to list any item barring certain exceptions, Amazon asks that you find a similar product in its database. If you can’t find a similar product, Amazon has a procedure for creating a new product page. You should be aware, however, that new products often require additional approval from Amazon before listing can occur.
According to an August 8, 2018 story in Bloomberg Businessweek, Amazon has about a 5 percent share of U.S. retail spending (excluding cars and car parts and visits to restaurants and bars), and a 43.5 share of American online spending in 2018. The forecast is for Amazon to own 49 percent of the total American online spending in 2018, with two-thirds of Amazon's revenue coming from the U.S.
Many items on Amazon come from third-party sellers on the Marketplace, indicated by a "Sold by" line near the "Add to Cart" button. If both Amazon and third-party sellers offer the item, the large "Add to Cart" button buys from Amazon, and you'll see a few alternative "Add to Cart" buttons with different prices and a link to a full list of used and new versions of the product. Marketplace sellers set their own prices, so you might find a great discount on a used item, or come across a rare, discontinued product that's only for sale at a collector's price. Even when buying from another seller, Amazon itself handles your payment, so you don't need to worry about your credit card information leaking out.
"Search Inside the Book" is a feature which allows customers to search for keywords in the full text of many books in the catalog. The feature started with 120,000 titles (or 33 million pages of text) on October 23, 2003. There are about 300,000 books in the program. Amazon has cooperated with around 130 publishers to allow users to perform these searches.
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