IMM: DIGITAL MEDIA MASTERS: JEFF BEZOS: AMAZON.COM

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Until he was 16, Jeff Bezos spent his summers rounding up herds and fixing windmills on his grandfather's ranch. "It was real cowboy country," he said of the homestead in tiny Cotulla, Texas. Although he did not pursue a career as a cowboy, Mr. Bezos did become a frontiersman of another sort. In 1994, he founded Amazon.com (www.amazon.com), an Internet book retailer. "There is an aspect of the Internet that is like the new frontier," he said.

Mr. Bezos always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He realized the Internet was his path in 1994, while he was working on Wall Street and learned usage of the World Wide Web was growing 230% a year. "That was faster than anything I had ever seen, so I decided to try to find a business plan that would make sense for the Web," he said.

"You can build an online book store that cannot exist any other way because there is no way to have 2.5 million titles in a book store in the physical world."

Amazon.com sells those 2.5 million titles and offers unique services as well, such as 24-hour shopping, customer book reviews and online chats with authors. It also offers 40% off best-selling books and staff picks.

Amazon's sales have doubled every quarter since it opened in July 1995. From $875,000 in the first quarter of 1996, sales reached $16 million in the first quarter of 1997. Facing stiff competition from Barnes & Noble and Borders Books Web sites, Amazon is leveraging an ad campaign that places its banner ads on more than 50 Web sites and print ads in publications such as The New York Times Book Review, Wired and The Wall Street Journal.

"We were very bullish when we started the company and always expected it to be successful, but we did not expect it to go this far so fast," he said.

Adrienne W. Fawcett

Betcha didn't know: Since he moved to Seattle to found Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos has taken up snowshoeing.

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