Cyber Monday shoppers: 4 million per minute

Online traffic surges 43% as Americans hunt for bargains from the comfort of their desk or home.

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By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Not satisfied with your holiday weekend shopping? Don't worry, it's Cyber Monday.

It is the day that e-tailers will furiously push big discounts, free gift cards, free shipping and any other gimmick they can think of to entice consumers to spend even more of their holiday shopping dollars online.

Shoppers seemed to be responding to these moves early Monday.

Amazon.com (AMZN, Fortune 500) spokesman Craig Berman said its wireless Kindle e-reader was the "best-selling item across all of Amazon's product categories on Monday."

"This November has become the biggest month for Kindle sales since we launched the product two years ago," Berman said. But he declines to disclose how many Kindle units have been sold over that period.

Also, Berman said the e-tailer sold out of its Cyber Monday deal of the day, which was an 8GB iPod Touch for $158.

Other hot sellers Monday included the hugely popular Zhu Zhu pet hamsters, which are sold on Amazon through third party vendors.

Although the retail price of each hamster is $9.99, Berman said some of the hamsters, such as Mr. Squiggles, were selling for as much as $63 each.

4.3 million shoppers a minute

By 2:20 p.m. ET, more than 270 retailing Web sites tracked by Internet monitoring firm Akamai were drawing more than 4.3 million visitors per minute in North America.

Akamai said that its Net Usage Index -- which monitors North American visitors to sites such as American Eagle Outfitters, Overstock.com, QVC.com and eBags.com -- said traffic was up nearly 39% compared to the same time last year.

"We expect an even bigger spike in traffic later today," said Pedro Santos, chief strategist for e-commerce with Akamai. What's more, Santos said he expects heavy online traffic to continue on subsequent Mondays leading up to the last shipping day before Christmas.

Here's a sampling of what other sellers were serving up to customers.

Walmart.com is offering nearly 150 specials on such items as flat panel TVs, gaming systems and toys as well as 97-cent shipping on laptops, digital cameras and MP3 players.

Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) said in a statement the deals are being offered through Friday, but only while supplies last.

LLBean.com is offering a $10 gift card with every $25 purchase or more. Macys.com is hoping that its offer of free shipping with every $75 purchase will draw big traffic to its Web site on Cyber Monday.

For book lovers, Barnesandnoble.com is chopping prices by 50% on all New York Times bestsellers and offering a $10 gift certificate for every $100 purchase.

Still, don't expect any special deal on Barnes & Noble's "Nook" eBook reader, which industry experts peg as one of the hottest products this holiday season.

A quick check on the book seller's Web site showed that if you order the Nook Monday, it won't be shipped until Jan. 4. And the "extra" incentive to Nook buyers is free shipping and a free gift certificate.

About 96.5 million Americans plan to shop online Monday, up from 85 million in 2008, according to the National Retail Federation.

The group said 88.2 million consumers will shop from home Monday but plenty of consumers -- an estimated 13.5 million -- will also look to lock in deals during their workday.

Despite these expected traffic numbers and heavy discounts, Cyber Monday is still seen as more of a ceremonial start to online holiday shopping.

The busiest online shopping day tends to be later in December, and is the last day that gifts can be shipped to guarantee delivery by Christmas Day.  To top of page

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