Hoping to become a more popular Internet destination, a small search engine owned by Seattle-based Web retailer Amazon.com...

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Hoping to become a more popular Internet destination, a small search engine owned by Seattle-based Web retailer Amazon.com is testing a mapping service that will display street-level photos of the city blocks surrounding a requested address.

The A9.com service, expected to start today, joins the increasingly crowded field of online mapping. Other major players include America Online’s Mapquest.com, Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft’s MSN.com.

A9 is counting on an index of 35 million photographs spanning the neighborhoods of 22 U.S. cities, including Seattle, to distinguish its mapping service from the rest of the pack.

The Palo Alto, Calif., search engine first began to post street-level photographs of specific addresses earlier this year as part of its Yellow Pages listings.

The new service extends that feature by posting photographs of entire city blocks alongside a traditional map showing a grid of streets.

Alaska Airlines


Dispatchers OK contract extension

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines said yesterday that its 34 dispatchers have ratified an amended contract that extends their current agreement to mid-2010.

The extended contract “offers Alaska’s dispatchers stability over the next five years in an uncertain environment,” Tom Lynch, chairman of the Alaska Airlines local of the Transport Workers Union, said in a joint statement issued with the airline.

The dispatchers, all based in Seattle, handle flight planning and tracking, and serve as the airline’s primary link with pilots in the air.

Wizards of the Coast

Random House to distribute game

Renton-based Wizards of the Coast yesterday said it had signed a deal with Random House Distribution Services to distribute its popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing card game.

Wizards of the Coast will end its current distribution partnership with Holtzbrinck Publishers in late December.

Starting in 2006, Random House will assume responsibility for sales, customer service and distribution of the game, miniatures based on Dungeons & Dragons and its best-selling fantasy novels.

Wizards was sold to toy maker Hasbro in 1999 for nearly $500 million.


New Chicago-area headquarters near

OfficeMax, the nation’s third-largest office-products retailer, said yesterday it plans to choose a new Chicago-area site by the end of September for an expanded corporate headquarters that will also house its retail operation.

OfficeMax was based outside Cleveland from its founding in 1988 until 2003, when Boise Cascade bought it. Boise Cascade then changed its name to OfficeMax, sold off its wood-products business and moved its headquarters to Itasca, 20 miles northwest of Chicago, where it has 900 employees.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and The Associated Press