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Tech Industry

Amazon sees value in used goods

The online retailing giant is expanding its policy of paying commissions to its affiliate Web sites to include the sale of used items.

Amazon.com is expanding its policy of paying commissions to its affiliate Web sites to include the sale of used goods.

Amazon previously just paid commissions of up to 15 percent when a visitor to an Amazon-linked site would buy any new item from Amazon. Starting last week, Amazon has begun paying 2.5 percent if the visitor buys a used item--a transaction that used to leave the affiliate with no bonus.

The affiliate program--when a Web site agrees to partner with Amazon and provide a link that leads to the behemoth retailer and its products--has long been one of Amazon's best methods to spread its name, particularly in the company's early days.

A pioneer in the "viral marketing" referral program, Amazon has seen its affiliates grow to 740,000 sites, according to Colin Bryar, the director of Amazon's Associate program.

The used-good commission issue has escalated for affiliates as Amazon has increasingly advocated the sale of used goods on its site, frequently providing links right below "new" prices for the same item used. The move has angered some booksellers and publishers who say it undercuts new book sales.

For affiliates, however, it means lost income. For example, in the past an affiliate was paid if a customer referred to Amazon through their site bought a new item, but didn't get anything if the customer bought a used item.

That left some affiliates feeling that they were referring traffic to Amazon and not getting a cut.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Abbe Sennett, who operates AboveGraphics.com, which links to different Amazon products, including books. "I just hope it turns out that they aren't just paying us lip service."

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said the company decided to start paying commissions on sales of used goods because of how the sector is growing.

"It was something that associates wanted to see," Smith said. "Used goods are very popular."

Under the affiliate program, Amazon offers a range of different links and product displays that the affiliates can post on their sites. An associate also can opt to let Amazon decide what products to list on the affiliate's Web site, she said. Amazon can track what products customers are buying on Amazon and then determine what items should be displayed on the affiliate's Web site.

Amazon's marketplace, which allows individuals and small businesses to sell used and refurbished items on Amazon.com product pages, equaled about 23 percent of U.S. orders.