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Inside the Giant Machine: Confessions of a Former Amazon.com Technologist [Kindle Edition]

Kalpanik S. , Neha Talreja , Colin Zheng
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Behind Amazon’s quirky smile logo lurks a cold and calculating giant machine. Author Kalpanik S. reveals his own smile as he tells the somewhat quirky story of his complex and hilarious relationship with Amazon. From the sophisticated wit in his portrayal of the courtship period in “How To Get Hired By Amazon In Ten Days”, to the dark humor of the disillusionment period in “The Cold, Calculating Machine”, Kalpanik’s story is more than just an insider’s view of the giant machine known as Amazon.com. It’s a modern, universal story of the uneasy relationship between an individual and today’s gargantuan corporations. In the end, it is also a story of redemption for creative and free thinking individuals that define America.

Revision 2.7: A new chapter was added on the Amazon Warehouse scandal which is based on the report first published by Morning call, a newspaper in Pennsylvania in 2011 which described on the horrendous work conditions at Amazon's warehouse in the region.

CONFESSIONS OF THE AUTHOR

I must confess that English is my 3rd language. Even though this book was edited by 3 professional English editors, it is obvious, even to me, that this book is written by a Foreign-born author.

Foreign-born or not, I believe I have converted a dull topic—the transformation of Amazon from a retail website to a marketplace—into an interesting and lively story.

This is more of a little book than a big one. Being a technologist, I am trained to be concise. The printed version of this edition is 221 pages. This may be too little for a few readers, too much for others, and just right for the rest. So, If you are looking for a 1,000-page treatise on Amazon that can be used as an example of perfect grammar in the High school English grammar class, then this book may not be the right book for you. There are several other books on Amazon with perfect grammar, which are also perfectly boring!

Oh, and this is not THE Amazon Story, just AN Amazon Story. Only 1 Amazon Employee can write THE Amazon Story - Jeff Bezos, and he is busy doing other things. And yes, this book is half about Amazon, half about my trajectory in time and space (aka my life) which intersected with Amazon. Of course, you have my permission to skip the portions about my life :)

This book evolved from a blog which I authored as and when I interviewed & joined Amazon, moved to Seattle, and then "exited" both Amazon and Seattle. While half of the material was added afterwards based on my recollection, the core of this book remains the original blog entries and still has that feel.

A book about Amazon can be pretty dry, so I have tried to add some humor. In my attempt to make this book funny, a few facts may have been stretched. In that regard, I quote this passage from 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com, written by Mike Daisey, a fellow Amazon alumnus–turned author:

“Some facts were injured in the telling of this story. The truth, however, remains unharmed.”

That applies to this book as well.

Ready to buy? Proceed with caution! And don't drive or operate heavy machinery immediately after reading this book.

Kalpanik S.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1220 KB
  • Print Length: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Center of Artificial Imagination, Inc.; iBook v2.95 edition (January 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004RJ42JA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This short e-book taught me things I didn't know about Amazon.com, my favorite website The author was born in India and has lived the American dream as a computer technologist, first in Silicon Valley and later for Amazon.com. He and his family moved to Seattle after a long and grueling interview process. He was paid well but the job required as much as 80 hours of work a week. He describes Seattle well, its' warm and bright summers and its' cold and rainy winters. He also describes the impact that living there had on his wife and children. Especially interesting to me was the Amazon.com working culture, which was indeed hard on the employees as Amazon created the mammoth business that it is today.

The book is fast-paced and easy to read, the author a likable guy. Amazon is a hard place to work for and many of his opinions are certainly not complementary although I could easily see the business genius of Jeff Bezos. Eventually, Mr. Kalpanik left the company but his recollections depict a time and a place and an industry that is indeed unique and will certainly be applauded as a business model for many years to come.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and entertaining, highly recommended April 22, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Humorous and entertaining, the author has a unique view as he describes his journey to the reader. He shares the path he weaves from the Silicon Valley, to Amazon in Seattle, and beyond in a distinctive way of storytelling. I found this easy to read book witty, and his funny stories about Amazon more than a little entertaining. His mood and tone easily transfers from the pages, and I have to admit I caught myself smiling. Wonderful Book! I would highly recommend it to other readers looking for a lighthearted book with personality, amusing observations on Amazon, and smiles along the way.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Surprising View of Amazon November 20, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This inexpensive book was written by a former Amazon employee who worked in the Silicon Valley prior to Amazon. The writing is easy reading, very entertaining, and certainly sounds authentic. What was surprising to me was that the author began with a pretty positive description of Amazon that suddenly turned very sour and negative. Something must have happened to destroy the author's situation with the company. I really valued learning about how Amazon was created. Not surprising that the CEO expected extremely hard work. Would you say that the author became a "disgruntled" ex-employee? Thank you for the book AND photos!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hugely disappointing October 30, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to reading this based on its intriguing name - "inside the giant machine" and "confessions". I was expecting another angle on the Amazon story, when in fact the book was nothing more than a poorly-constructed narrative of the author's life around the brief time he worked at Amazon.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Look Inside Amazon by a Former Employee. January 19, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Inside the Giant Machine: Confessions of a Former Amazon.com Technologist by Kalpanik Talreja is a quick and entertaining read about being recruited and working for Amazon.
This book reviewer gives this book 3.3 stars (rounded down to 3 stars).

The story is about the author being recruited and then working for Amazon. He does a good job describing his experience working with the software technology that truly drives Amazon. Don't expect a detail description and history of the entire Amazon workplace. This is just the story of the author's time at Amazon (which is relatively brief).

Especially for the person with a tech background, this is a quick read and worth the $0.99 cover price.

Anthony Wessel - Owner of DigitalBookToday.com and reviewer at KindleBookReview.com.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High entertaining value, yet faithful to reality November 7, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a non-technical book about a very technical company. Reader can really get a sense on how Amazon operates without having to deal with all the technical jargons. The author unveils what drives the success of Amazon by using personal experience and humor.

Being an ex-amazonian, I can relate to many of the stories told by the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read July 14, 2013
By mandeep
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gives you amazing insights on how Amazon actually works from the inside, the author has a great sense of humour and brings out the ills of working with Amazon out in a funny yet not to be taken lightly manner.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Outside the Giant Machine looking in December 22, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book shared very little of what it was like inside Amazon. Instead, it is a collection of vignettes from the author's life around the time he was employed with Amazon. I was disappointed that the book did not deliver on the title.

Breaking down the content of the book, you have (in order of amount of content from most to least)

- stories about the author's charming family
- impressions of Seattle
- retelling of public information about Amazon (profitability, sales, A9)
- anecdotes of getting hired and working at Amazon.

The book reads more like excerpts from a blog than a story. I had many problems with the narrative: There is no consistency to the voice, leading to a choppy and variable read; chapters start with an interesting idea but do not resolve, leaving the reader to wonder what happened. As to the Insider perspective, there were holes I did not expect. For example, the author never states his title (though he explicitly gives his former and next titles); he refers to his team in Merchant Services without ever talking about Z-Shops, and couches his actual work under unimaginative code-names (whither "Project X"?). There are some anecdotes about his job that ring true, but they are few and far between. In the end, I feel the author never fully invested in Amazon - his tears after quitting seem more about himself than his job.

The author's best writing comes when he describes something he loves: his wife and daughters, dancing on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately this rarely coincides with his "Inside Amazon" experiences, so if you want to know what it's like to work there you'll have to look elsewhere (
... Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting peek inside a mega corporation
Amazon excels at customer service; however, it does not appear they treat their employees as well as they treat their customers. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased Review...Maybe
The author has been candid about his experience. However his priority is his family. Those highly intelligent nerds who hate socializing might want to skip this one. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mridul J Kurup
1.0 out of 5 stars Just awful. Pointless. Creepy.
Awful book. Provides no insight into Amazon, poorly written, and we're subjected to the authors downright creepy, lustful observations on young women. Awful, awful, awful.
Published 15 months ago by Mr. C. Hayles
1.0 out of 5 stars So so
Not worth the time. Low level English both in vocabulary and grammar, bad conclusion and really nice pictures. Read more
Published 16 months ago by UC Takahashi-Iturriaga
3.0 out of 5 stars An Insider's View of Amazon
"Inside the Giant Machine" is somewhat depressing yet entertaining. Yes you do get an insider's view of what it is like to work for amazon but the story is devoid of the excitement... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Rebecca of Amazon
1.0 out of 5 stars Author's life history. Couldn't sit through. :(
I bought this book yesterday hoping to know more about Amazon, but as it turned out, the book focuses too much on the author and his life. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Alagu Sundaram Muthiah
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading marketing
The author is advertising this book on Facebook (and here on the product page) as "about to be banned" claiming an online petition -- signed by 2 people -- seeks to 'ban' this... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Jim Reardon
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Giant Machine: Confessions of a Former Amazon.com...
Somewhat disappointed by the book's lack of currency. Author left Amazon in 2005, somewhat surprised by company philosophy. Another Internet Giant caught with its pants down.
Published 23 months ago by Bill Tillman
2.0 out of 5 stars Confessions without rhyme or reason
I like Amazon so when I saw an ad on Facebook that a book on Amazon could be blocked by the shop (what a brilliant ad!), of course I decided to download it on my Kindle. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Aleksandra
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great literature of course
but I didn't expect that. Reading this was like picking up an old magazine and reading an article that might have been interesting years ago. Read more
Published on July 6, 2012 by StudMuffin'sGal
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More About the Author

Kalpanik S. was born in India, or thereabouts, a long time ago. OK, so it wasn't really all that long ago, but it's not very recent either.

He came to the USA on a fellowship from the University of California in late eighties to do graduate level studies in Computer Science. After completing his studies, Kalpanik chose to stay back and serve the Software and Internet industries at West Coast's High Tech corridor - Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Southern California

He has been writing a journal about his "journey" through the US from the time he landed at the San Francisco Airport more than twenty years ago. Finally, some years ago, he finally gathered enough courage to get it published. Boy, are we glad he did!

Kalpanik (pronounced as KAAL-pah-nik) means "imaginary" in Hindi. Yes, it's a pen name. Author uses a pen name to allow him to separate his literary identity from his professional identity.

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