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The service allows Amazon’s eight million customers the opportunity to buy and sell anything from within the Amazon.com Web-site and charges a listing fee on items posted for sale. When the Antiques Trade Gazette visited recently the site was already offering items of film memorabilia and other collectables. Amazon guarantee all purchases under $250 (£154).

The move represents further evidence that the auction process is being seen as an increasingly important strand of electronic commerce, offering all manner of Internet companies the opportunity to diversify beyond their core identity. More significantly, Amazon’s decision also suggests that by the time established fine art auctioneers such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s get their digital services off the ground, the competition will have increased significantly, even beyond the familiar names such as ArtNet, ebay, eHammer, icollector and The Auction Channel. Recognition is growing, following ebay’s soaring stock price, that e-commerce thrives on the particular sense of community spirit fostered by person-to-person auctions.

The Amazon development comes hot on the heels of the launch of Waterstone’s free Internet access provision, offered in collaboration with the leading Internet search engine Yahoo. How long before Sotheby’s or Christie’s offer free Internet access?