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Amazon to celebrate 20th birthday with Prime Day sale

The company claims the summer sale will have more deals than Black Friday, though the discounts will only be available to its Prime members.

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To celebrate Prime Day and an accompanying photo contest, Amazon commissioned local artists in every Prime-eligible country to create art inspired by its concept of #PrimeLiving. Here is the Tokyo piece by Whole 9. Amazon

For Amazon Prime members, Christmas is coming early this year.

To celebrate Amazon's 20th birthday next week, the e-commerce giant is introducing Prime Day, offering up what it claims will include "more deals than Black Friday." The summer sale will be held Wednesday, July 15 -- the day before Amazon.com first launched two decades prior -- with special deals rolling out as often as every 10 minutes throughout the day.

These deals, though, will only be available for new and existing Prime members -- folks who pay an annual fee for free two-day shipping, a streaming-video library and other benefits -- who live in the US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Austria.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company doesn't have any future plans to share on whether Prime Day could become an annual event.

In the run-up to Prime Day, Amazon is holding a #PrimeLiving Photo Contest, asking its customers to submit photos that show off Prime's benefits. One winner from each Prime-eligible country will get a $10,000 Amazon gift card (roughly £6,430).

Prime Day serves as yet another example of Amazon's long-term effort to bring more customers to Prime, which was introduced in 2005 and now has an estimated 40 million US members. A key reason for this strategy is that Prime members spend a lot more on Amazon -- about $1,500 yearly, compared with $625 for non-members, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. In addition to the July 15 event, Amazon this year has been expanding Prime Now, a new rapid-delivery service that's also exclusive to its Prime members.

Amazon's combination of cheap deliveries, deep discounts and huge inventory have helped it become a leader in e-commerce. Yet the company needs to keep thinking up new ways of marvelling customers to make sure they keep going to Amazon and not one of its many rivals. New competition to Prime is coming from Walmart which is piloting a $50-a-year, free three-day shipping program called ShippingPass. Also, Jet.com plans to launch its new membership retail website later this year that could become another threat to Prime.

Prime Day will start on July 15 at midnight Pacific Time (3 a.m. Eastern Time or 8 a.m. UK time) and will run through until 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time the same day. The event will include seven "Deals of the Day" and thousands of short-term "Lightning Deals." Also, although these deals are only available to Prime members, Amazon offers 30-day free trials of the US service at Amazon.com/prime.

The company is planning other activities on its birthday, July 16, to celebrate 20 years of reading, according to the spokeswoman, to honor Amazon's origin as an online bookstore.