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Amazon.com is the largest Internet retailer in the United States and one of the largest retailers of any kind in the world. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon began as a bookseller but quickly branched out into many other areas.

In 2006, the company launched Amazon Web Services, a suite of cloud-based products used in the operation of websites and web applications. Amazon EC2, which sells computing power, and Amazon S3, which sells web server space, are both popular among news organizations and other companies. Some have expressed concern that Amazon’s success in the space could give it too much power, such as when Amazon bounced WikiLeaks off its servers in late 2010.

In 2007, Amazon announced the Kindle, its ebook reader, which has become the market leader among dedicated e-readers. Priced originally at $399, the Kindle has gone through three major versions, with the price dropping to $79. Amazon released a touch-screen edition of the Kindle in 2011, which was superseded by the Kindle Paperwhite in 2012.

In 2011, Amazon released the Kindle Fire, a touch-screen tablet computer that runs on Google’s Android system. The Fire was initially priced at $199 and was launched along with its own web browser, Silk.

The Kindle Store sells subscriptions to a number of leading newspapers and magazines. Several news publishers have criticized Amazon for the size of the cut it takes from Kindle subscription revenue. Unlike Kindle ebooks, Kindle subscriptions are not viewable on other devices with Kindle apps, like the iPhone or iPad. In August 2011, Amazon launched the Kindle Cloud Reader, a browser-based app that allows access to the Kindle store.

The Kindle has been a major driver of ebook sales, which passed paperback sales in the United States in early 2011. It has been criticized for setting ebook prices too low, undercutting its competitors and hurting publishers.

A number of news organizations have used the platform to publish ebooks based on their reporting. In January 2011, Amazon launched Kindle Singles, a section of the Kindle Store dedicated to article-length pieces, many of them original journalism and some produced by news organizations. A number of startups, including The Atavist and Byliner, aim to produce Kindle Singles or ebooks in similar formats for sale.

Amazon also publishes its own books, both in print and via ebooks. It began managing magazine subscriptions in 2013 through a partnership with Conde Nast.

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Primary author: Joshua Benton. Main text last updated: October 2, 2013.
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