Amazon's new Prime Now service promises one-hour delivery

Initially rolling out only for parts of Manhattan, Prime Now is the latest attempt by Amazon to compete with brick-and-mortar stores by offering speedy delivery of household items.

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Amazon's new Prime Now one-hour delivery service. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Amazon has launched a new service that will deliver shampoo, books, batteries and other products to Prime members in 60 minutes or less.

Known as Prime Now, the service for now has a very small geographical reach. For its kickoff on Thursday, Prime Now is limited to certain areas of Manhattan. But Amazon said the service -- available only for subscribers of Amazon's $99-per-year Prime subscription program -- will launch in more cities in 2015. Anyone who downloads the mobile app can receive a notice when the service arrives in their area.

It marks yet another way that Amazon is striving to compete with other online retailers as well as local retail outlets by offering quicker ways to get orders to your door.

The company already offers same-day delivery on groceries and dry goods in certain markets. It also provides a that that promises same-day delivery on a range of other products, such as computers, printers, books, home appliances, first aid and travel accessories. Amazon has even been experimenting with delivery via drones and with its own shipping network.

Amazon is facing heightened competition in getting goods to consumers' doorsteps. Google has been experimenting with its own delivery service, which in October expanded beyond its early outposts in New York and California to Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. For same-day service, users of Google Express must pay $95 per year, or $10 per month.

Online auctioneer eBay, too, has a long-term plan to build up its delivery service, and brick-and-mortar stores are in the mix as well -- for instance, Best Buy, eyeing anxious holiday shoppers, is offering expedited shipping for those making purchases online.

Amazon also continues to devise ways to enhance the appeal of its Prime subscription service and make it worth the cost, which earlier this year jumped to $99 a year from $79. Beyond the new Prime Now feature, Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping, a large library of Prime Instant streaming movies and TV shows, Prime Music and Prime Photos.

With the Prime Now mobile app, available in the iOS, Android and Amazon app stores, Prime members can order items from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Two-hour delivery is free. To get an order in one hour or less, you'll have to pony up $7.99.

Non-Prime members can download the app and browse available items, but to order a product you need to be a Prime member. The app works like any shopping app, allowing you to search for and browse items and then add them to your shopping cart. After you order your item, you can track its delivery via the app. Tens of thousands of products are available through Prime Now, according to Amazon.

For Prime Now, Amazon will use part of its new building on 34th Street in Manhattan to act as a hub to deliver orders to customers.

"There are times when you can't make it to the store and other times when you simply don't want to go," Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations, said in a press release. "There are so many reasons to skip the trip and now Prime members in Manhattan can get the items they need delivered in an hour or less."

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