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Amazon free shipping may come at a price

As the e-tailer tests the idea of shipping some products free of charge, it confirms that it has raised the prices of some of those items.

As Amazon.com ships books, videos and music for free under a new promotion, the prices of the products themselves have gone up.

Amazon is picking up the shipping charges when customers buy two or more books, CDs or videos. The Seattle-based company launched the test last week, telling customers that "you'll no longer need to factor in shipping charges at the end of your order."

But the freebie may end up costing some customers more money. Amazon has increased prices on some of its books, videos and CDs, the company said Monday.

Kristin Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for Amazon, on Monday declined to say how many products were affected, but did say the best-selling books, videos and CDs were unaffected. For instance, titles on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list are still 40 percent off, she said.

The price increases sparked some grumbling on the message boards of FatWallet.com, a site geared toward online shopping discounts.

One person said in a message that on his "Wish List," a feature that lets Amazon customers keep track of items they plan on buying, the DVDs he was tracking "nearly all went up about $3 in price."

The test promotion by Amazon comes as the company searches for ways to boost sales of books, videos and music, the cornerstone of its product line.

"We've offered this to try and improve the customer experience," Schaeffer said. "We have always tried and we'll continue to try different methods to accomplish that. This is a test. If our customers don't like it, they'll let us know."

Schaeffer said the majority of feedback the company has received from shoppers indicates they are pleased they no longer have to calculate shipping charges.

However, some unhappy customers are finding ways to skirt the price increases.

At DVDTalk.com, an online forum dedicated to DVDs, some visitors recommended that bargain hunters "just add a second cheap item" to qualify for Amazon's free delivery.

They also passed the word via the Internet that the most inexpensive item at Amazon is "The Book of Hope," which sells for less than $1. Adding the book to any regularly priced title qualifies the order for free shipping.

Before the promotion began, the book languished at well below the top 5,000 best-selling titles on Amazon. On Monday, the title had surged to 823.