Amazon continued to roar along despite the recession, reporting an increase in total revenue of 18%, to $4.89 billion, in the first quarter ended March 31, and net income rose to $177 million from $143 million. Gains would have been higher if the impact of currency translations is excluded. Unfortunately for publishers, however, the gains were driven by the retailer’s electronics and other general merchandise segment in both North America and abroad, which had gains of 42% and 34%, respectively.

Kindle's revenues are included in the electronics segment and those sales exceeded expectations, CEO Jeff Bezos said. Growth in the North America media segment was 8%, with sales reaching $1.30 billion. The increase was slightly higher than the 7% increase the segment produced in the last quarter of 2008. International media segment sales rose only 6%, hurt by currency translations. Still, overall company results beat Wall Street expectations.

Asked whether Amazon has plans to expand the Kindle's capabilities to compete with other multi-use devices, Bezos said the company will stay focused on reading-only devices, which he called a "sweet spot" for Amazon.

The company didn't comment too much on trends, although it noted that sales of higher priced items, while growing, is not growing as fast as two quarters ago. Amazon continues to work with vendors to lower prices, but said the most room for reductions is with vendors in newer segments. The company said it was hard to say if the various state initiatives to collect sales tax will affect demand.

The company gave a wide range for second quarter sales, forecasting growth between 6% and 17%.