The Amazon carries more water than any other river in the world. The drainage basin is enormous (c.2,500,000 sq mi/6,475,000 sq km; c.35% of South America), gathering waters from both hemispheres and covering not only most of N Brazil but also parts of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. For most of its course the river has an average depth of c.150 ft (50 m). The gradient of the river is very low: Manaus, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) upstream, is only c.100 ft (30 m) higher than Belém and is an ocean port; ships with a draft of 14 ft (4 m) can reach Iquitos, Peru, c.2,300 mi (3,700 km) from the sea. Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia have international shipping rights on the Amazon. In the lowlands stretching east from the Andes is the largest rain forest (selva) in the world—a wet, green land rich in plant life. The tropical climate is tempered by the heavy rainfall (exceeding 150 in./381 cm annually in parts of the upper and lower regions) and by high relative humidity; the average temperature at Santarém, 400 mi (644 km) upriver, is 78°F; (26°C;).
Geologically, the Amazon basin is a sediment-filled structural depression between crystalline highlands of Brazil and Guiana. The riverbed (1-8 mi/1.6-12.9 km wide) is in a wide floodplain that is up to 30 mi (48 km) wide. For much of its course, the Amazon wanders in a maze of brownish channels amid countless islands, but is unobstructed by falls.
Its headstreams, however, arise cold and clear in the heights of the Andes. They descend northward before turning east to join and form the Amazon (which is, however, occasionally called the Solimões from the Brazilian border to the junction with the Rio Negro). Of the Amazon's more than 500 tributaries, the chief ones are the Negro, Japurá (Caquetá), Putumayo (Içá), and Napo, which enter from the north; and the Javari, Juruá, Purús, Madeira, Tapajós, and Xingú rivers, which enter from the south. The Casiquiare River, a natural canal, links the Amazon basin (through the Rio Negro) with the Orinoco basin.
Below the Xingú the river reaches its delta, with many islands formed by alluvial deposit and submergence of the land. Around the largest of these, Marajó, the river splits into two large streams. The northern stream is the principal outlet and threads its way around many islands. The southern channel, called the Pará River, receives the Tocantins River and has the important port of Belém. The awesome tidal bore (up to 12 ft/3.7 m high) of the Amazon is called pororoca; it travels c.500 mi (800 km) upstream. The river's immense silt-laden discharge is visible far out to sea.
The Amazon was probably first seen by Europeans in 1500 when the Spanish commander Vicente Yáñez Pinzón explored the lower part. Real exploration of the river came with the voyage of the Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana down from the Napo in 1540-41; his fanciful stories of female warriors gave the river its name. Not long afterward (1559) the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Ursúa led an expedition down from the Marañón River. In 1637-38 the Portuguese explorer Pedro Teixeira led the voyage upstream that definitively opened the Amazon to world knowledge. The river continued to be of enormous importance to explorers and naturalists, among them Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz.
There is archaeological evidence of clustered, densely populated pre-Colombian settlements in parts of the Amazon basin, but at the time of the early European explorations these settlements had already been wiped out, probably by smallpox and other diseases, The valley was largely left to its sparse remaining indigenous inhabitants (mostly groups of the Guaraní-Tupi linguistic stock and of meager material culture) until the mid-19th cent., when steamship service was regularly established on the river and when some settlements were made. In the late 19th and early 20th cent., the brief wild-rubber boom on the upper Amazon attracted settlers from Brazil's northeastern states, and in the 1930s Japanese immigrants began developing jute and pepper plantations. Until recently the area remained largely unpopulated, yielding small quantities of forest products (rubber, timber, vegetable oils, Brazil nuts, and medicinal plants) and cacao. Extensive road networks are now opening these lands to colonization, although agricultural success has been limited by adverse climate, poor soils, and great market distances.
The establishment of a health service (chiefly by launch) in World War II was followed by the creation of a UNESCO research institute in 1948, and several developmental programs, both governmental and private, were set up in Brazil to foster the valley's development. In the 1960s the Amazon region began experiencing increased economic development brought on by tax incentives and construction of the Trans-Amazon Highway, the Belém-Brasília Highway, and two rail lines. Near Manaus and Amapá, factories make use of ample oil and manganese resources. In addition, a port at the Brazilian city of Macapá was connected by rail in the 1950s to the inland stores of manganese.
The Brazilian government implemented a "poles of development" policy in 1974 to plan for population increase. Since 1985 the Carajás project, centered in W Maranhão, has seen the development of major iron ore deposits, the construction of a new railroad, and the initiation of forest clearance, land colonization, cattle ranching, large-scale farming, and urban development on an unprecedented scale. This policy has had mixed results, leading to environmental damage and to the disruption of the original inhabitants' lives, and many settlers in the region do not have title to their land. In 2009 a law was passed that would permit settlers to acquire title, either through a grant or purchase, depending on the size of the plot. Large sections of the rain forest have been destroyed in recent years, threatening rare species of plants and contributing to the increase in the atmosphere's carbon dioxide and the consequent impact on global warming.
See C. R. Marham, ed., Expeditions into the Valley of the Amazon (1859); R. Furneaux, The Amazon (1969); J. R. Holland, The Amazon (1972); B. Weinstein, Amazon Rubber Boom, 1850-1920 (1983); B. Kelly and M. London, Amazon (1985); J. T. Medina, The Discovery of the Amazon (2d ed. 1988); J. Hemming, Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (2008).
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com, Inc. in 1994, and launched it online in 1995. Amazon.com started as an on-line bookstore, but soon diversified to product lines of VHS, DVD, music CDs, MP3 format, computer software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, etc. Amazon has established separate websites in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China and Japan. It also provides global shipping to certain countries for some of its products.
The company began as an online bookstore named "Cadabra.com", a name quickly abandoned for sounding like "cadaver"; while the largest brick-and-mortar bookstores and mail-order catalogs for books might offer 200,000 titles, an on-line bookstore could offer more. Bezos renamed the company "Amazon" after the world's biggest river. Since 2000, Amazon's logotype is an arrow leading from A to Z, representing the desire to sell many products.
In 1994, the company incorporated in the state of Washington, beginning service in July 1995, and was reincorporated in 1996 in Delaware. The first book Amazon.com sold was Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. Amazon.com issued its initial public offering of stock on May 15, 1997, trading under the NASDAQ stock exchange symbol AMZN, at an IPO price of US$18.00 per share (U.S. $1.50 after three stock splits in the late 1990s).
Amazon's initial business plan was unusual: the company did not expect a profit for four to five years; the strategy was effective. Amazon grew steadily in the late 1990s while other Internet companies grew blindingly fast. Amazon's "slow" growth provoked stockholder complaints: that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough. When the dot-com bubble burst, and many e-companies went out of business, Amazon persevered, and, finally, turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: U.S. $5 million, just 1¢ per share, on revenues of more than U.S. $1 billion, but the profit was symbolically important.
The company remains profitable: 2003 net income was U.S.$35.3 million, U.S.$588.50 million in 2004, U.S.$359 million in 2005, and U.S.$190 million in 2006 (including a U.S.$662 million charge for R&D in 2006), nevertheless, the firm's cumulative profits remain negative. As of September 2007, the accumulated deficit stood at U.S.$1.58 billion. Revenues increased thanks to product diversification and an international presence: US$3.9 billion in 2002, U.S.$5.3 billion in 2003, U.S.$6.9 billion in 2004, U.S.$8.5 billion in 2005, and U.S.$10.7 billion in 2006. On November 21, 2005, Amazon entered the S&P 500 index, replacing AT&T after it merged with SBC Communications.
Amazon.com powers and operates retail web sites for Target, Sears Canada, Benefit Cosmetics, Bebe Stores, Timex Corporation, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Lacoste. For a growing number of enterprise clients, currently including the UK merchants Marks & Spencer, Benefit Cosmetics' UK entity and Mothercare, Amazon provides a unified multichannel platform from whence a customer can interchangeably interact with the retail website, standalone in-store terminals, and phone-based customer service agents. Amazon Web Services also powers AOL's Shop@AOL.
Amazon has announced plans to move its headquarters to the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle beginning in mid-2010, with full occupancy by 2011. This move will consolidate all Seattle employees onto the new 11-building campus.
The company launched Amazon.com Auctions, its own Web auctions service, in March 1999. However it failed to chip away at industry pioneer eBay's juggernaut growth. Amazon Auctions was followed by the launch of a fixed-price marketplace business called zShops in September 1999, and a failed Sotheby's/Amazon partnership called sothebys.amazon.com in November.
Amazon no longer mentions either Auctions or zShops on its main pages and the help page for sellers now only mentions the Marketplace. Old links to zShop () now simply redirect to the Amazon home page, while old links to Auctions () take users to a transactions history page. New product listings are no longer possible for either service.
Although zShops failed to live up to its expectations, it laid the groundwork for the hugely successful Amazon Marketplace service launched in 2001 that let customers sell used books, CDs, DVDs, and other products alongside new items. Today, Amazon Marketplace's main rival is eBay's Half.com service.
Beginning August 2005, Amazon began selling products under its own private label, "Pinzon"; the initial trademark applications suggested the company intended to focus on textiles, kitchen utensils, and other household goods. In March 2007, the company applied to expand the trademark to cover a larger and more diverse list of goods, and to register a new design consisting of the "word PINZON in stylized letters with a notched letter O whose space appears at the "one o'clock" position.". The list of products registered for coverage by the trademark grew to include items such as paints, carpets, wallpaper, hair accessories, clothing, footwear, headgear, cleaning products, and jewelry.
On May 16, 2007 Amazon announced its intention to launch its own online music store. The store launched in the US in public beta September 25, 2007, selling downloads exclusively in MP3 format without digital rights management..
In August 2007, Amazon announced AmazonFresh, a grocery service offering perishable and nonperishable foods. Customers can have orders delivered to their homes at dawn or during a specified daytime window. Delivery was initially restricted to residents of Mercer Island, Washington, and was later expanded to several ZIP codes in Seattle proper. AmazonFresh also operated pick-up locations in the suburbs of Bellevue and Kirkland from summer 2007 through early 2008.
A popular feature of Amazon is the ability for users to submit reviews to the web page of each product. As part of their review, users must rate the product on a rating scale from one to five stars. Such rating scales provide a basic idea of the popularity and dependability of a product.
The review feature is an important and highly influential function for customers and one of the main reasons for amazon.com’s success at selling books. As with book reviews anywhere, the buyer must beware that all reviewers have bias. Under normal circumstances, reviews give the reader at least a modest basis for evaluating a given book.
Because it is an open forum, the reader can benefit from a variety of perspectives. However, the anonymity of web reviewers increases the chances of abuse in the form of self-praise, praise from friends, or malicious criticism. This situation was confirmed in 2004 when the origin of reviews was accidentally made public on an amazon site, and some authors openly confirmed their glowing reviews of their own books.
Additionally, Amazon created a feature in recent years that allowed users to comment on reviews. This has been met with a mixed reaction, since a few of the high-profile sellers have been getting "spammed" in these forums, regardless of the quality of the reviews. Amazon has done little to enforce the rules of these forums, but did recently add an "ignore" button feature to help counteract the spamming. Nonetheless, at least one critic in the top 50 quit writing for Amazon and began contributing to another site due to the spam issues and Amazon's inability to enforce the rules.
Amazon provides an optional badging option for reviewers, e.g., to indicate the “real name” of the reviewer (based on a credit card) or to indicate that the reviewer is one of the “top” (most popular) reviewers. Some books have well over one thousand reviews (e.g. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged), but many books, especially new ones, have none.
The U.S. site generally has the most reviews, but other country sites offer the perspectives of other reviewers. A review posted on one site is not necessarily visible on another site.
Search Inside the Book is a feature which allows customers to search for keywords in the full text of many books in the catalog. The feature started with 120,000 titles (or 33 million pages of text) on October 23, 2003. There are currently about 250,000 books in the program. Amazon has cooperated with around 130 publishers to allow users to perform these searches.
To avoid copyright violations, Amazon.com does not return the computer-readable text of the book but rather a picture of the matching page, disables printing, and puts limits on the number of pages in a book a single user can access. One author observed that his entire book could be read online by searching a few words. Amazon is planning to launch Search Inside the Book internationally. Additionally, customers can purchase access to the entire book online via the Amazon Upgrade program, although the selection of books eligible for this service is currently limited.
According to information in Amazon.com discussion forums, Amazon derives about 40% of its sales from affiliates whom they call "Associates", and third party sellers who list and sell products on the Amazon website(s).
An Associate is an independent seller or business that receives a commission for referring customers to the Amazon.com site. Associates do this by placing links on their websites to the Amazon homepage or to specific products. If a referral results in a sale, the Associate receives a commission from Amazon. Worldwide, Amazon has "over 900,000 members" in its affiliate programs. Associates can access the Amazon catalog directly on their websites by using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) XML service.
Amazon was one of the first online businesses to set up an affiliate marketing program. AStore is a new affiliate product that allows Associates to embed a subset of Amazon products within, or linked to from, another website.
Amazon reported over 1.3 million sellers sold products through Amazon's worldwide web sites in 2007. Selling on Amazon has become more popular as Amazon expanded into a variety of categories beyond media, and built a variety of features to support volume selling. Unlike eBay/Paypal, Amazon sellers do not have to maintain separate payment accounts - all payments and payment security are handled by Amazon itself.
According to the Internet audience measurement website Compete.com, Amazon attracts approximately 50 million U.S. consumers to its website on a monthly basis.
In 2003, Amazon purchased the rival online music retalier CD Now, which was founded in 1994.
On June 21, 2003, Amazon coordinated what was at the time one of the largest sales and distribution events in e-commerce history with the sale of over 1.3 million copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, since beaten by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with a sale of over 2 million copies preordered in 2007.
In December 2007, Amazon was fined €100,000 by The Tribunal de Grande Instance in France for offering free shipping. The 1981 Lang Law prohibits companies from discounting books by more than 5%.
On February 22, 2000, the company was granted a patent covering an internet-based customer referral system, or what is commonly called an "affiliate program". Reaction was swift and negative. Industry leaders Tim O'Reilly and Charlie Jackson spoke out against the patent, and O'Reilly published an open letter to Bezos protesting the 1-click patent and the affiliate program patent, and petitioning him to "avoid any attempts to limit the further development of internet commerce".
O'Reilly collected 10,000 signatures with this petition. Bezos responded with his own open letter. The protest ended with O'Reilly and Bezos visiting Washington D.C. to lobby for patent reform.
On May 12, 2006, the USPTO ordered a reexamination of the "One-Click" patent, based on a request filed by Peter Calveley, who cited as prior art an earlier e-commerce patent and the Digicash electronic cash system.
Before Amazon published its phone number, numerous web pages existed solely to publish the Amazon.com customer service phone numbers. One such page received in excess of 23,000 visits in December 2004 alone. Despite the perceived difficulty in reaching customer service by phone, Amazon.com "remains the leader among e-tailers" in customer satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index's fourth-quarter 2007 survey.
In 2001, 850 employees in Seattle were laid off by Amazon.com after an unionisation drive. The Washington Alliance of Technological Workers (WashTech) accused the company of violating union laws, and claimed Amazon managers subjected them to intimidation and heavy propaganda. Amazon denies any link between the unionisation effort and the lay-offs.
Also in 2001, Amazon.co.uk hired a US union-busting organization, The Burke Group, to assist in defeating a union recognition campaign by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU, now part of Amicus) to achieve recognition in the Milton Keynes distribution depot. It was alleged that the company victimised or sacked four union members during the 2001 recognition drive and held a series of captive meetings with employees.
Some employees of Amazon in the United Kingdom are required to submit to drug tests and can have their employment terminated on a positive test. However, the reliability of the tests has been called into question, as in the case of an Amazon worker who won a tribunal case against the company.
On May 21, 2008, Marburger Publishing agreed to settle with the Humane Society by requesting that Amazon stop offering their magazine The Gamecock for subscription. The second magazine named in the Humane Society lawsuit, The Feathered Warrior, remains available.
Additionally, at the bottom of the source code for the main page the word 'MEOW' is written in a comment.