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Amazon.com adds music

Online bookseller jumps into crowded Web music space

Online bookseller Amazon.com jumps into the online record sales fray today by adding albums to its portfolio.

The Seattle-based company, the leader in online book sales with $87 million in revenues in its most recent quarter, is hoping to carve out a niche in the lucrative marketplace and challenge such burgeoning players as CD Now and N2K’s Music Boulevard.

The move comes when interest in online sales is at an all-time high, with sales of recorded music over the Internet projected to rise from about $300 million in 1998 to $2.5 billion in 2002.

Amazon.com executives said music is a natural extension for the 3-year-old company that pioneered retail sales over the Internet and now calls itself the nation’s third-largest bookseller.

“The No. 1 request we’ve gotten from our customers is to add music,” said David Risher, senior veep of Amazon.com. “Our customers have told us in no uncertain terms they want to buy music from us.”

Risher said the company has hired a lot of people “who are passionate about music,” and suggests the company’s new site will surprise skeptics who contend Amazon.com will forever be known as a bookseller that also happens to sell music.

Amazon.com’s music site will be easily accessible from the company’s main Internet page.

The site will offer about 100,000 titles at launch, compared with about 40,000 in a typical retail store, and compact disc titles will be offered at discounts of 10% to 40% off retail, with top sellers sold at 30% off.

Internet sales are expected to increasingly drain revenues from the record chains, which have been slow in establishing their own online services.

Amazon.com’s stock rose on the news to record close Tuesday of $51.25, up $5, on Nasdaq.