Amazon.com sets sites on Europe

PARIS (10/15/98) - E-commerce poster child Amazon.com Inc. has launched two sister sites in Germany and the UK following acquisitions of local online booksellers in each country earlier this year.

Amazon.de and Amazon.co.uk officially opened for business today, the company said in a statement. In April of this year, Amazon.com acquired two online book stores, Bookpages Ltd. in the UK and ABC Bucherdienst in Germany, in order to build up its presence in these markets. Today's launch is the first time the sites will operate under the Amazon.com name, the company said.

The idea is to offer books published in the UK and Germany, as well as many US titles, to customers throughout Europe. By operating the sites locally, Amazon.com can avoid charging UK and German customers the high shipping costs associated with purchasing books from its US-based online superstore, Amazon.com said. Customers in other European countries may also wish to purchase books from the two sites to avoid high shipping charges.

While e-commerce has been heralded as a way for companies to reach customers in far-flung corners of the world, the reality of having to pay shipping companies to deliver goods can drive prices up.

Amazon.de will operate its distribution centre and headquarters in Regensburg, Germany, while the company will undertake marketing and editorial concerns, such as book reviews, in Munich. The German store will initially offer 335,000 German titles and 374,000 US titles. Amazon.co.uk will operate out of Slough, England, and will carry a complete catalogue of 1.2 million UK titles in print. It will also offer 200,000 US titles.

The entry of Amazon.com into the European market may worry some smaller competitors here, such as the UK's Internet Book Shop, which have assumed they had the upper hand over Amazon.com here due to locations allowing lower shipping costs. However, Amazon.com won't have an easy ride, especially in Germany, where German publishing giant Bertelsmann AG has teamed with BarnesandNoble.com in a $US200 million deal.

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