Suddenly, Amazon's Books Look Better

The e-tailer is raking in a bundle--from other merchants

No sooner had Amazon.com Inc. reported its fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 2 than the squabbles erupted on online-investor message boards. "The Amazon numbers were great!" gushed William Harmond, a trader on the Silicon Investor site. Retorted another, identified as Lucretius Taurus: "I'll be shocked if this piggy is even around in a couple years." Even the pros are betwixt and between. "I'm still a believer in Amazon in the long term," says David D. Alger, chief executive of money manager Fred Alger Management Inc.--yet he recently dumped most of the Amazon shares in his Enterprise Internet Fund.

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