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Amazon[1] is an online retailer headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Though it began as an online bookseller, it has since expanded to carry millions of different types of items ranging from electronics and video games to apparel, food and toys. As of August 2013, Amazon has 11 localized websites for different countries throughout the world.


In 1994, Jeff Bezos[6] quit his job at a New York City hedge fund and drove cross-country to Washington state to start a retail website, taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota[7] which declared online retail businesses did not have to collect sales tax in states where they did not have a physical presence. On his way, he received $300,000 from his parents in Texas and wrote up a business plan for his new venture.[8] Upon arrival in Bellevue, Washington, Bezos operating an online bookstore out of his garage, selling the the first book (shown below) in July 1995.[9]

picture of first book ordered from Amazon and the with receipt

Within two months of launch, Amazon's sale reached up to $20,000 per week and in October 1995, the website was introduced to the public as the "World’s Largest Bookseller Opens on the Web". Following its reincorporation in Delaware, Amazon issued its initial public offering of stock in May 1997. Since then, the company has acquired dozens of other Internet-based companies, mostly persistently in e-shopping and e-commerce sectors (Bookpages, CDNow, CreateSpae, Audible, AbeBooks, GoodReads, Zappos), gradually reinventing itself as an online department store, consumer electronics producer and major provider of cloud computing services.

Minimum Wage Raise

On October 2nd, 2018, Jeff Bezos announced it would pay all of its workers, including part-time and seasonal workers, a minimum of $15 an hour, more than double the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.[35] The move came after months of intense criticism, particularly from Bernie Sanders, after it was revealed that the median salary for an Amazon worker was short of $29,000, roughly $6,000 short of the median salary for workers in the United States. In a statement after the announcement, Sanders said:

"Our view was that it is totally absurd for the taxpayers of this country to have to subsidize the wealthiest guy on earth who is paying his employees wages that are so low that many of them are forced to go on Medicaid, food stamps, and other government programs. They denied that, they argued with us… But at the end of the day what I have to say is, I have to give credit where credit is due. And that is that Mr. Bezos today did the right thing."

Sanders also stated he hoped that the move would cause other major employers like Walmart and McDonald's to follow suit. Bezos responded to Sanders praise by echoing those hopes in a tweet (shown below).

Jeff Bezos tweet thanking Bernie Sanders


Cloud Hosting

In 2006, Amazon launched a number of web services[5] including an elastic compute cloud and a file storage service. As of August 2013, a multitude of sites utilize Amazon's cloud hosting services including Reddit, Netflix and Instagram, In April 2012, Amazon revealed that their cloud hosting powers 1% of the entire internet.[4] In August 2013, cloud computing research company Gartner estimated the Amazon cloud to be five times larger than their closest competitors.[10]

Instant Videos

On September 7th, 2006, Amazon launched a streaming video service[17] in the United States, initially called Unbox. By February 2011, more than 5,000 television shows and movies were made available for members of Amazon Prime. As of March 2013, Digital Trends[18] found that Amazon offers the cheapest service amongst other streaming providers Hulu and Netflix.


On November 19th, 2007, Amazon released its first edition of the Kindle[11] e-book reader (shown below, left) for $399, boasting 250 MB of memory and the ability to hold approximately 200 non-illustrated books. The entire first run of the product sold out in 5.5 hours[12] and did not come back in stock until April 2008.[13] The following year, a second generation of the reader (shown below, center) was released with enough memory for an estimated 1,500 non-illustrated books. Coinciding with its release, author Stephen King made his novella UR (shown below, right) available exclusively through the Kindle Store[14] and it was downloaded more than 10,000 times within its first month.[15]

first generation Kindle showing the Kind Wikipedia entry Alice in Wonderland as it appears on Kindle Stephen King Kindle exclusive book release

The second generation Kindle had two more models, as well as two international versions, before the third generation was released on July 28th, 2010. By late January 2011, the Kindle library had grown to more than 810,000 and Amazon announced they had been selling 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperbacks.[16] The fourth generation launched in September 2011, along with an Android-based color screen tablet known as the Kindle Fire. A fifth generation of the standard Kindle was announced on September 2012 before the launch of the Paperwhite in October 2012, with 2GB of storage and 28 hours of battery life.

Kindle Worlds

Kindle Worlds is a self-service publishing platform launched in June 2013 that enables its users to submit original works of fanfiction from a selection of licensed works and franchises, including Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. In early August 2013, they expanded to add in works inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's novels.[19] As of August 2013, 160 stories are available for sale in the Kindle Worlds store[20], including 60 works in The Vampire Diaries world alone.

Fine Art

In August 2013, Amazon launched a fine art marketplace, partnering with more than 150 art galleries in the United States to sell original works. At launch, the portal boasted more than 40,000 works from 4,500 artists[21], but was initially criticized[22] by some bloggers who deemed the art overpriced. However, many commenters flocked to the listings, leaving humorous comments[23] on pieces including a 1868 piece by Claude Monet[24] and a 1941 Norman Rockwell piece[25] (shown below).

Norman Rockwell art piece showing men in different uniforms walking together customer review of Norman Rockwell art

Drone Delivery System

On December 1st, 2013, the eve of Cyber Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Prime Air[27], a drone-based delivery system currently in development which can ship any product weighing five pounds or less from its warehouse to the customer within a radius of 10 miles in less than 30 minutes, during an interview appearance on CBS newsmagazine program 60 minutes.[26] That same evening, Amazon released a test flight video of a drone delivery via its YouTube channel, where it gained more than 4.7 millions in the 24 hours (shown below).

Following the announcement, many viewers followed up on Twitter with incredulous reactions and parodies of the proposed service, including a Twitter parody account (shown below) using the handle @AmazonDrone.[28]

Prime Day

On July 5th, 2015, Amazon announced that it would be celebrating its 20th Anniversary on July 15th with a sales holiday called Prime Day, which was going to feature "more deals than Black Friday," but only for users subscribed to Amazon's premium Prime service.[29] Users who were not subscribed to the service could sign up for a 30-Day free trial.

Amazon also commissioned a photo contest from each Prime-eligible country, where photographers were asked to photograph examples of "#PrimeLiving" for a chance to win some of $10,000 worth of Amazon gift cards.[30] After Amazon's initial announcement, several other retailers, including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, announced competing online sales and on July 14th, with user excitement rising, Amazon released a preview list of some deals that would be available during the sale, including a $75 32" TV.[31] On July 14th, there were more than 53,000 Tweets using the hashtag #PrimeDay or the words Prime Day.[32]

Beginning at midnight on July 15th, users began purchasing things in different Amazon Prime Lightning Sales, which lasted for limited times and offered discounts ranging from 20%-90% off. Items were in limited quantities, and when the amounts sold out, users could be added to a waitlist. However, users were initially disappointed with the types and quality of items offered on sale, many of which were generic or odd, like knee braces or probiotics.[33] While the hashtag #PrimeDay trended in the United States, many of the comments were about people's dislike for the selection of products on offer.[34]

Notable Reviews

BIC's "For Her" Pens

Bic’s “For Her” Pen is a line of disposable ballpoint pens designed for female consumers, produced and sold by the French manufacturer company Société Bic (BIC). In August 2012, they became a trending topic in the news and blogosphere after tongue-in-cheek customer reviews of the product began to emerge on the online shopping site Amazon.

Three Wolf Moon

Three Wolf Moon is a t-shirt that was ironically made into one of the top selling apparel items on Amazon in 2009 after being inundated with tongue-in-cheek customer reviews.

Banana Slicer

Banana Slicer Reviews are satirical testimonials submitted by users on the online shopping site Amazon for the kitchen gadget product Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. Due to its perceived lack of utility, the product page became an easy target for tongue-in-cheek reviews.

Amazon-Themed Resume

Philippe Dubost’s Resume is a resume created by web designer Philippe Dubost which mimics the appearance of an product page in order to advertise his availability for a job. The page launched in January of 2013 and went viral on Twitter within a few days.


As of August 2013, Amazon is ranked 6th in the United States on Quantcast[2], averating 77.2 million unique users per month. On Alexa[3], Amazon is ranked 5th in the United States and 6th worldwide.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Amazon – Home

[2] Quantcast – (registration needed)

[3] Alexa –

[4] Wired – Amazon’s Secretive Cloud Carries 1 Percent of the Internet

[5] Amazon Web Services – Home

[6] Wikipedia – Jeff Bezos

[7] Wikipedia – Quill Corp. v. North Dakota

[8] – Jeff Bezos

[9] Amazon – Company Timeline

[10] Gigaom – Duh, Amazon tops Gartner’s cloud Magic Quadrant, but number two may surprise you

[11] Amazon – Kindle

[12] Engadget – Kindle sells out in 5.5 hours

[13] Wired – Amazon’s Kindle Back In Stock

[14] Stephen King – UR, Exclusively on Amazon's Kindle – Now Available

[15] Fox News – Stephen King's agent pleased at e-book debut

[16] PCWorld (formerly TechHive) – Amazon Kindle Book Sales Soar

[17] Amazon – Instant Video

[18] Digital Trends – Netflix Instant vs. Hulu Plus vs. Amazon Instant Video


[20] Kindle Worlds Store

[21] The Verge – Amazon launches an online marketplace for fine art

[22] Marginal Revolution – Is Amazon Art a doomed venture? Let’s hope so

[23] Business Insider – Amazon Is Selling This $1.45 Million Monet In Its New 'Fine Art' Section, And The Reviews Are Hilarious

[24] The Daily Dot – Amazon reviewers totally underwhelmed by $1.4 million Monet

[25] Amazon – Kyle's Customer Review

[26] 60 Minutes – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Looks to the Future

[27] Amazon – Prime Air

[28] Twitter – @AmazonDrone

[29] CNET – Amazon to celebrate 20th birthday with Prime Day sale

[30] Amazon – Prime Photo Contest

[31] Time – Amazon Prime Day Sneak Preview of Deals Has Been Released

[32] Topsy – Search: #PrimeDay and Prime Day

[33] Washington Post – Amazon Prime Day has begun -- and some shoppers are not impressed (must subscribe to view)

[34] Twitter – Search: #PrimeDay

[35] NPR – Amazon Sets $15 Minimum Wage For U.S. Employees, Including Temps

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