Amazon Makes Bid for Auctions

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"Books, Music, & More" now includes auctions. Amazon today opens a new front in its campaign to conquer the continents of online buying and selling. But while the Seattle supersite has rolled over natives in the past -- relegating Barnes & Noble to a distant bookselling second and surpassing CDNow sales in less than three months -- this new fight pits Amazon against eBay, a rival so wired to the virtual ways of Internet business that it has dispensed not merely with brick-and-mortar stores, but even with the overhead of warehouses and shipping. The battle will be the most serious test yet of how sticky any Internet site can really be.

Amazon brings the most customers to the contest -- more than 8 million, a number released yesterday, along with the news that sales have continued to grow, even on top of the end-of-the-year holiday surge -- but those shoppers are presumably accustomed to the customer service on which Amazon prides itself. Even with insurance and escrow protections, will they stick around for the chattering swap meet Amazon is organizing in the parking lot behind the store?