The History of Amazon.com

By Cate Rushton

Amazon.com is one of the largest online retail websites in the world. From its humble beginnings in a garage to an international business employing thousands of people, the company has enjoyed tremendous growth.People all over the world purchase books, music, movies and products from Amazon and hundreds of partner companies.

Founding

Amazon.com was started by Jeff Bezos in 1994. At the time, his company was run completely from his garage in Bellevue, Washington. He was able to secure funding from Nick Hanauer. This first investment of $40,000 was joined by a larger, $100,000 investment from Tom Alburg that helped make the new website more user-friendly. During the first month of business, Bezos fulfilled and shipped orders to all 50 states, and to 48 countries. Books were the only product available at that time.Bezos wanted Amazon.com to be more than just a retail website; he wanted to create an online community. Early on, he added a feature that enabled readers to add their own book reviews for all customers to view.

Going Public

On May 15, 1997, the company went public. The initial public offering (IPO) was targeted at $18, but by the end of the day, public demand had pushed the share price to more than $24 per share. The company had raised $54 million. Amazon.com is listed on Nasdaq as AMZN.

Expansion and Popularity

In 1997, Amazon.com added movies and music to its offerings.In 1998, Amazon opened its first international sites in the United Kingdom and Germany, where it quickly enjoyed success.In 1999 the company opened four order fulfillment centers in Fernley, Nevada; Coffeyville, Kansas; and Campbellsville and Lexington, Kentucky to handle the large mass of orders.Time Magazine featured Jeffrey Preston Bezos as Person of the Year in 1999, calling him "king of cybercommerce."

Features and Upgrades

The "Look Inside the Book" feature, added in 2001, was immediately popular as a tool for consumers to see if the book they were looking at would fit their needs. Later, the "Search Inside the Book" feature, added in 2003, made it possible for consumers to search key words in the text of the book.Amazon added Marketplace, where sellers of used books could offer products for sale with a small commission collected by Amazon. Amazon also teamed up with many companies to offer their products through the website.

Growth and Success Sustained

In January 2009, Amazon reported $6.7 billion in fourth quarter 2008 sales. The company now has fulfillment centers in 12 U.S. states and eight countries. Its headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, and the company employs more than 21,000 people worldwide.