RealTime IT News

Amazon.com Heads Far East

E-tailing giant Amazon.com launched a Japanese-language site featuring 1.7 million book titles to serve Japanese-speaking customers in Japan and around the world.

The company said Japan is its largest export market, with 193,000 customers and annualized sales of $34 million. Amazon said it would offer a discount of up to 30 percent on all books in languages other than Japanese and provide free delivery within Japan until the end of the year.

The company also plans to sell video and audio products on the new site. Japan was the home of Amazon.com's millionth customer, who received a personal delivery of books from Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in Tokyo in 1997.

Amazon stock was up $2.37 to $39 in mid-morning trading.

Basis Technology provided the software, engineering and internationalization technology for Amazon's Japanese site. Amazon's other international sites include the French-language Amazon.fr, launched Aug. 31 of this year, the German-language Amazon.de, and Amazon.co.uk.

Amazon's operations in Japan include offices in Tokyo, a distribution center in Ichikawa, Chiba prefecture, and a customer service center in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Interestingly, as Amazon was launching in Tokyo, Microsoft and Japanese bookseller Kinokuniya Co. said they will team up to market e-books in English via the Internet starting next spring and in the Japanese language from the middle of 2001.

Kinokuniya and Microsoft will co-market, co-promote, and basically try to create demand, according to Microsoft e-book development manager Jon Denka.

"We will be providing Kinokuniya with the best technology and they will be licensing our technology," Denka was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Bezos expressed confidence in Amazon's business model, cash position and accounting practices, following moves by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission to look into them.

"I wouldn't change any of our strategy," he told Reuters on a trip to Tokyo for the launch.

Amazon announced in its recent earnings report that the SEC was looking int