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Amazon Launches Auction

Online bookseller Jeff Bezos is taking his Amazon.com into the auction arena. CBS News This Morning Co-Anchor Jane Robelot talked to Bezos about the new venture.



Bezos started Amazon.com from his modest ranch home in Seattle in 1994. Less than five years later, his idea of selling books on the Internet has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. The company stock price jumped from $9 in May 1997 to more than $170 this week. That makes Bezos worth more than $1 billion on paper, but you wouldn't know it by the car he drives--a Honda.

Now, Amazon.com has launched an online auction service that sells everything from antiques to computers to toys. In doing so, they are taking on Internet auction giant Ebay, which has more than 2 million members.

Bezos says he isn't worried about the competition. "I think there is room for lots of players," he says. "What we've tried to do is take our tradition of making things simple, as easy as possible, and move that into the auction space. We had one-click shopping, and now we have "bid click," which makes it easy to bid at auctions. Ease of use and safety are what we focus on in our auction experience."

Bezos says Amazon will stand behind the transaction up to $250, even if it turns out the seller can't deliver the goods.

Current Amazon customers are preregistered for the auction site. People who want to enter items for auction can "list it just like you would a classified ad," he says. "Come in, type the title, type the description, type a few things and click 'list.' It is just as easy to sell as it is to buy."

Bezos launched the service with a charity auction, with proceeds to be donated to the World Wildlife Fund. He says he wants to help the organization protect the rain forest and the Amazon river basin. One item in that auction is his famous "door desk" - one of three originals built in Bezos' garage for Amazon.com at the very beginning.

"The bidding started at $1. It is up to over $14,000," he says.

Other items include an Andy Warhol painting of James Dean and an original Mark Twain book signed by the author with both his pen name and his real name, Samuel Clemens.

Bezos says the site will not auction off firearms or adult material.

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