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It's official: Amazon Prime membership to rise to $99 annually

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It's been rumored for some time, and on Thursday, Amazon.com customers who are Prime Members got the bad news: The company sent them emails telling them when their memberships renew, they will be charged $99, not the $79 they paid the last time their Prime membership was renewed. CNBC reported on the news, but we ourselves received the email in our own inbox.

Here's what our inbox revealed:

Dear XXXXXXXX X XXXXX,

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on XXX XX, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

For more information about your Prime membership, visit our Prime membership page.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Prime Team

There is no press release on Amazon.com's site, but there is a special page linked on the Prime page. With the change, Amazon Student members will pay $49, as they pay 50 percent of the standard Prime membership rate.

Some customers -- for example, those in New York, -- are also seeing another option: Prime Fresh. Fresh offers “free same-day or next-day early morning delivery on orders over $35 on over 500,000 items.” It is significantly pricier than Prime itself, with a $299 annual fee.

Some parts of the country were testing Prime Fresh -- Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles -- since last year. In those areas, it has included grocery delivery.

This is the first time, since Amazon Prime was introduced nine years ago, that the company has raised its price. The program began simply, with free two-day shipping for orders fulfilled by Amazon.com. Since then, though, it has expanded to include Prime Instant Video (a subset of the Amazon Instant Video library), as well as the ability to borrow books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Rumors of a rise have been rampant, and the company itself tolld investors in January that it was considering raising the price of Prime from between $20 and $40 annually due to “the increased cost of fuel and transportation as well as the increased usage among Prime members.” The company recently raised the price of Prime in the U.K. and Germany after merging in streaming video from Lovefilm.

When will this hit new Prime memberships? The home page of the site is advertising (for those not logged into their accounts, apparently) that for the next week customers can lock in a $79 rate for their first Prime year, indicating that after that time the price for new Prime customers will rise to $99. A screenshot of the "ad" is above.

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