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The Shipping News

You need a scorecard to keep up with all the shipping policy changes at Amazon.com these days. In today's action, the e-tailing giant rolled out what it calls "faster and more affordable shipping options for non-U.S. customers."

Within the past few weeks, Amazon had launched a free shipping offer for folks who buy two or more purchases, a deal that was quickly matched by bookseller rival Barnes & Noble.com.

Then Amazon quietly rescinded its free shipping offer, saying that it was a two-week promotion that a company spokesman referred to as a test run.

However, free standard shipping was being offered today on the new Crest Whitestrips for teeth, priced at $39.99. That offer was via a link to partner site drugstore.com. See, you DO need a scorecard.

In making today's international shipping announcement, amazon said that shipping rates and times are now divided into 10 distinct regions, with pricing and transit times based on the distance of a particular region from Seattle-based Amazon.com's U.S. distribution centers and the volume of exports to that region.

And now, music, movies and software can now be shipped overseas via Standard Shipping, which was previously not an option.

Amazon.com said it has expanded its relationship with Deutsche Post Global Mail and its subsidiary DHL (no financial details were disclosed) to provide the new regionalized shipping services. Amazon said that now it can offer international customers an average transit time of 11 to 21 days, down from 14 to 84 days.

The new regional categories are Canada, Europe, Asia/Asia Pacific, Japan, Latin America, Australia, Israel, Africa, Middle East and Island Nations. Details of pricing to the various segments are available here.

More than 26 percent of Amazon's combined cumulative customer base of 32 million customers is outside of the United States.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is still offering free shipping on every item if you buy two or more, and they say they have not raised prices. How long they can keep that up is anybody's guess. When Amazon was doing its free shipping trial, some prices were actually hiked to compensate. With the end of the free-shipping promotion, Amazon said it lowered prices that had been raised.