Amazon holiday sales fuel 36% growth in Q4

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Amazon.com's fourth-quarter 2010 sales increased 36% year-over-year to $12.95 billion, the company said January 27 in an earnings report. Net income in the quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season, improved by 8% to $416 million, while operating income dropped 2.5% to $494 million, compared with Q4 2009.

The period, which ended December 31, 2010, was the company's most successful to date in terms of sales, but it slightly missed expectations. Analysts expected quarterly sales to jump by 37% to $13 billion, and operating income to grow by 15% to about $547 million. Amazon's 36% Q4 year-over-year growth rate was 3% less than the third quarter of 2010.

Net sales for full-year 2010 increased 40% to $34.2 billion, and net income increased 28% for the whole year to $1.15 billion. Operating income for the year increased 25% to $1.41 billion.

Amazon said its sales growth can be attributed in part to customer enthusiasm for the third-generation Kindle, whose books surpassed paperbacks as the site's most popular format in the fourth quarter. Kindle books surpassed hardcovers in July.

The company also said it has sold 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperbacks since January 1, 2011. It has sold three times as many Kindle books than hardcover books during this time.

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