One of the big business stories in early 2002 was Amazon.com's profitability for the first time in four years. The company reported a $5 million net profit in the fourth quarter of 2001. (1) Although many dot.com entrepreneurs filed for bankruptcy in the past two years, many business forecasters continue to be optimistic about the future of e-commerce, in terms of both consumer online buying and business-to-business Internet transactions.
E-commerce has caught the attention of the general public as well as the business and academic communities. Colleges and universities have aggressively integrated e-commerce into existing curricula, often as a result of pressure from recruiters and industry. In some cases, schools have created new degrees or concentrations in e-commerce. A recent survey conducted by the international accrediting body for business schools found that almost half of business schools around the world have formally integrated electronic commerce into their curriculums. (2) This direction is likely to continue. One of the business education trends projected for 2002 is increased integration of e-commerce into the undergraduate and graduate business curricula in the United States. (3) In fact, one business educator predicted that "there will definitely be more courses with e-marketing and e-commerce in their titles" and that "these topics will pervade the overall business curriculum more as well." (4) It is apparent that it will be critical for librarians in various library settings to monitor e-commerce developments and build corresponding collections tailored to the needs of their users.
The guest columnist for this article is well informed on the topic of electronic commerce. She currently serves as a full-time staff member in the Schreyer Business Library, located at the University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University. Stephanie Jakle Movahedi-Lankarani has almost two decades of experience as a reference assistant in subject-based research libraries. She has developed an expertise in e-commerce research and has created a pathfinder on e-commerce that is posted on the Schreyer Library's home page (www.libraries.psu.edu/ crsweb/business/ECommerce). She has also delivered instructional sessions on e-commerce resources to MBA students. In addition, she has authored a comparative review of e-commerce Web sites for an upcoming issue of the Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship, and she has written an article on best e-commerce Web sites for a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship.--Editor
E-commerce rocketed, seemingly out of nowhere, into the collective public conscience during the holiday buying season of 1998. For the first time, the selling and buying of goods on the Internet reached a level of consumer spending that made the average retail consumer sit up and take notice. Amazon.com made more than $1 billion that year, and America Online rang up more than $1.2 billion in sales in just the last ten weeks of the year. (5) Then, almost as quickly as e-commerce had arrived, it seemingly imploded upon itself and sank below the economic horizon.
As Internet company after Internet company closed their doors, and the value of technology stocks dropped to the basement, many pundits wrote off e-commerce as a loudly touted, heavily advertised, but largely empty phenomenon. Others added that regardless of what it had been--advertising hype or commercial reality--e-commerce was now quite dead. Like Humpty-Dumpty, they maintained, the dot.com bubble could not be put back together again.
Here To Stay
Despite the great slowing of its growth in recent years, e-commerce does remain a strong and steadily expanding sector of the United States economy. Statistics from the U. S. Department of Commerce show that total e-commerce retail sales for 2001 were $32.6 billion and accounted for one percent of all 2001 retail sales (up from . …