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Amazon tests mail-order catalogue offering

Amazon.com is beta testing a feature to allow mail-order catalogue companies to list products and restaurants to display menus on its Web site, the company said Monday.

The aim is to point customers in the direction of products or services Amazon.com may not carry directly, and users would have to call the catalogue or restaurant direct to obtain goods or make a booking.

Amazon will not charge for the service during the testing phase of the service, but Silk declined to comment on plans for charging companies to display products once the service goes live. The beta testing is for the company's primary .com site, and Rachel Silk, spokeswoman for the UK division of Amazon.com, declined to comment on whether the company will bring the service to its sites in Europe and Japan.

Amazon has divided the catalogues into eight categories: arts and hobbies, car parts, home furnishings, industrial supplies, lifestyle, medical supplies, pet toys and science supplies.

In the past, Amazon.com has attempted to generate revenue by changing large fees to promote other online retailers on its site, but some of those deals resulted in lawsuits rather than revenue.

More recently, Amazon.com has been promoting its online retailing technology and services to potential partners.

Amazon.com has faced stiff competition from eBay and Yahoo! in the online retail market, with each company keen to offer new services and online stores. For its part, Amazon.com has added travel, high-ticket luxury items and used products to its Web site.

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