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Amazon misses earnings estimate

Sales were way up at the e-commerce giant, but not enough to make up for significant spending. Analysts were expecting earnings of $0.61 per share; Amazon posted $0.44 per share.

Amazon's earnings report for the first quarter of 2011 wasn't pretty, even considering that Wall Street was expecting tepid performance.

Analysts were expecting earnings of $0.61 per share--and Amazon posted $0.44. Net sales were up 38 percent year-over-year to $9.86 billion, but it's the earnings per share that really counts.

That's a sign that spending--for example, on projects like the Cloud Drive media storage service, its own Android app store, the cheaper ad-supported Kindle that was announced earlier this month, and the e-reader's new "library lending" feature--may have been higher than analysts anticipated.

"We love inventing on behalf of customers and have never been more excited about the long-term opportunities," founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a release.

Aggressively moving into new territory is classic Amazon, which began as an online bookstore but now sells just about everything, including hosting services, digital music, and a new (and somewhat controversial) combination of the two. But it doesn't come cheap, and long-term prospects don't show up on a quarterly balance sheet, something which may seem more precarious than usual amid so much competition. Most of that competition these days seems to come from the House of Jobs: Cloud Drive went live among reactions of surprise from the entertainment industry as well as reports that Apple is fast readying a long-delayed rival, and the Kindle continues to face e-book competition from the iPad.

Some tidbits from the company conference call with analysts:
• The version of the Kindle with "special offers" begins shipping tomorrow.
• On Amazon Web Services' downtime: the company said the team is working very deliberately on a way to identify, validate, and fix the root cause of the incident.
• On revenue and state sales taxes, the company said it collects sales tax and value-added tax in approximately 50 percent of its revenue base.
• The company is adding nine additional fulfillment centers this year, though there might be more, which the company has not yet announced.
• On when a customer becomes a digital customer (buying Kindle books instead of paper books, videos, and music instead of CDs and DVDs), the company says those customers are still good physical customers, buying products from other parts of Amazon's business.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.