What Were the First Products Sold on Amazon.com? [Timeline]

Amazon has been a go-to online retailer for so many customers for decades now. While they sell everything under the sun today, where did the company start? What was the first category of products sold on Amazon? Keep reading to find out!

What Were the First Products Sold on Amazon.com?

The first products sold on Amazon.com were books. The very first product bought on Amazon was the book “Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought” by Douglas Hofstadter. Since then, Amazon has grown to offer various products to customers around the world.

Interested in learning more about Amazon and the company’s growth over the past few decades? Below, you’ll learn many fun facts about Amazon!

1994: Amazon Is Founded

Jeff Bezos and his wife founded Amazon in 1994 with $10,000 of his own money. Located in Seattle, Washington, Bezos worked in his garage with a small group of workers.

Bezos has a goal to start an online bookselling platform when the internet was still relatively new. Bezos felt that he could really capitalize on this idea and start something new on the internet.

At first, Amazon only sold books. But that would quickly change once Amazon began to grow.

1995: First Product Is Sold

The first product ever sold on Amazon — the book “Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought” by Douglas Hofstadter — was sold in 1995.

For the first few years of Amazon’s life, the online store would only sell books. However, before the 1990s were over, Amazon would branch out and begin to sell other products — which we detail later!

1997: Amazon Goes Public

In 1997, Amazon went public at $18 a share. At this time, Amazon reported that they were expecting “substantial operating losses for the foreseeable future”. This was mainly because of the competition they faced from other online book retailers.

Barnes & Noble was the main opponent to Amazon’s success at this time, especially as Amazon was still only selling books. Though Amazon started when the internet first was becoming big, Barnes & Noble was a huge corporation when Amazon was still small.

So, Barnes & Noble had the capacity to quickly pivot to fit the times and keep their own customers happy. Per Amazon at this time, the competition between the two booksellers hurt Amazon’s business slightly.

1997: Second Distribution Facility Opens

Even though Amazon had competition from Barnes & Noble, the company was still doing well. After going public, Amazon also opened up a second distribution facility in 1997.

This facility was opened in New Castle, Delaware, and was designed to help with orders completed by Amazon customers who lived on the East Coast. The other facility remained on the West Coast in Seattle.

1998: Amazon Begins Selling More Products

In an attempt to grow their business, Amazon began to sell more products other than books in 1998. To begin with, Amazon first added music CDs and DVDs to their growing inventory.

Always a company that tries to be technologically advanced, Amazon also allowed customers to listen to snippets of albums and songs before deciding whether or not they wanted to purchase the CD!

1999: Amazon Accepts Third-Party Sellers

Amazon is now known for the fact that they allow third-party sellers to sell products on its platform. This first began in 1999!

In the beginning, third-party sellers were mainly only selling specialty items, such as rare or collectible books. Obviously, what third-party sellers could — and would — sell would soon change to what is more common today!

2002: Amazon Begins Selling Clothes

Only a few years after branching out and beginning to sell music CDs and DVDs, Amazon began to sell clothes in 2002. To ensure that their customers have enough options, Amazon partnered up with 400 clothing brands in order to sell their clothes on the website.

2005: Amazon Prime Is Created

Amazon Prime, the subscription service so many Amazon customers love, first began in 2005. Even back when Amazon Prime was first created, Amazon offered Prime members free 2-day shipping!

2007: The Kindle Craze Begins

In 2007, the first Kindle was created and added to Amazon. The Kindle was revealed right before the holiday shopping season of 2007. Much like Kindles today, the first Kindle offered customers the chance to read books, magazines, and newspapers on one electronic device! 

2008: Amazon Acquires Audible

While Amazon had branched out into selling quite a lot of different products by this time, the company still often stayed true to its roots and invested in ways to grow its books department. The creation of the Kindle is one example of this.

Amazon acquiring Audible in 2008 is another example of this, too. Audible, an audiobooks company, allows people to easily listen to books, rather than read them.

2009: Amazon Acquires Zappos

While Amazon tried to beat Zappos when it comes to the selling of shoes, they were never quite able to. So, in 2009, Amazon decided to buy Zappos. However, Amazon allowed Zappos to stay in Henderson, Nevada where it would still be run by the Zappos CEO

2011: Sunday Deliveries Begin

Amazon has always been known for its fast deliveries — but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t still improving. In 2011, Amazon began to offer Sunday deliveries for all of their customers who want faster shipping!

2015: Amazon Opens First Physical Bookstore

Here we have another example of Amazon continuing to explore its roots in bookselling. Two decades after the company began as an online bookstore, Amazon opened up its first physical bookstore in Seattle. Now, there are about 15 Amazon bookstores in the nation.

2017: Amazon Acquires Whole Foods

At this point, Amazon touted that you could buy just about anything off of their website. But they still wanted to grow. So, they decided to get into the grocery and food business by buying Whole Foods.

This would eventually allow Amazon to do same-day deliveries of Whole Foods items, as well as deliveries through their Amazon Fresh service.

What Was the First Non-book Item Sold on Amazon?

In the beginning of Amazon, only books were sold on the website. However, that began to change in 1998 when Amazon expanded its online stock to also include music CDs and DVDs — the first products that were bought on Amazon that weren’t books!

Conclusion

When Amazon was first founded, the company was an online retailer that only sold books. The first book ever sold — “Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought” by Douglas Hofstadter — was officially sold to a non-employee customer in 1995.