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Amazon Expands Free Shipping Again

Firing another round in the ongoing shipping wars, Seattle-based Amazon.com further lowered the price for orders to qualify for free shipping, this time from $49 to $25.

The company said it has seen "positive results" results from two months of testing with its Free Super Saver Shipping on qualifying orders over $49, and now will conduct a new "long-term test" at $25.

As before, the company said that it would decide later whether the $25 threshold can become permanent.

"With Amazon.com's 30 percent off books over $15 and now Free Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25, there may be reasons to shop in the physical world, but price is not one of them," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO.

Free shipping offers are rapidly becoming almost a sine qua non in online retailing as customers, and rightly so, tend to look at their overall cost, not just the cost of the goods they are buying.

Of course, Amazon's every move is closely watched, and smaller rivals like privately held Buy.com soon began offering free shipping site-wide with no minimum purchase required.

Since then, however, the policy has gone to free shipping "only on qualified items" that are in stock. Buy.com continues to boast that it will undercut Amazon's book prices by 10 percent. Rival bookseller BarnesandNoble.com continues with its offer of free shipping on purchases of two or more items.

In July 2001, Amazon.com lowered book prices to 30 percent off books over $20, and in January introduced its Free Super Saver Shipping option on orders over $99. In April, Amazon.com extended the 30 percent discount to books over $15.