The market's been showing Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) a lot of love: The stock is up 10 times in value since October 2001. But 2003 may be the year that Amazon wins the respect of the bean counter as well.

The leading online retailer posted a fiscally sound year, with net sales climbing 34% to $5.3 billion. Just as importantly, if not more so, the company produced its first profitable year without having to slap the term "pro forma" to its numbers. Amazon also produced $343 million in free cash flow, nearly tripling the previous year's showing.

Amazon has become viable, in part by lowering prices and initiating everyday free-shipping policies. Now, its transforming itself into a global online marketplace. Last year, $2 billion of the company's sales were tied to international operations. Electronics and other non-media general merchandise accounted for more than $1 billion of net sales.

Increasingly, if there's an e-tailing question, there's a good chance that Amazon is the answer. Already, offline retailers such as Toys "R" Us (NYSE:TOY) and Target (NYSE:TGT) have turned to Amazon to run their online storefronts.

Moreover, while such brick-and-mortar heavies as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) seemed like safe bets to have Amazon for supper as it struggled with its leveraged balance sheet, it is now in the enviable financial position to be buying back chunks of debt.

It's been a surprise to many, but online companies that once seemed vulnerable to rivals in a niche where barriers to entry were just a click away have thrived. That could be why Amazon earned an early recommendation in our Motley Fool Stock Advisor, while (NASDAQ:OSTK) was an early Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick.

Amazon isn't looking back. It plans on ringing up between $6.2 billion and $6.7 billion in sales this year. After producing $271 million in operating profits last year, the company is looking to improve on that and record between $355 million and $455 million in operating income.

Is Amazon cheap? That would be a hard argument to make. The company trades at roughly 3.5 times year-ahead sales and will probably never be the high-margin darling early optimists envisioned. Yet, Amazon is here to stay.

That may seem obvious these days. Just a few years back, it took the form of a question.

While no one is expecting another ten-bagger out of Amazon over the next three years, do you think it will still outperform the market? What is the key to the company's growth? All this and more -- in the Amazon discussion board. Only on