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amazon.com - Get Big Fast : Inside the Revolutionary Business Model That Changed the World Hardcover – April 5, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The tale of Amazon.com is well known to anyone who follows the stock market, the book business, the Internet explosion--heck, it's hard to imagine not knowing at least a piece of this extraordinary story. But few, it would seem, know the entire story, and it's these gaps that Robert Spector's Amazon.com: Get Big Fast attempts to fill (or at least the information available in early 2000, when the book was published). For example, those who know about Amazon.com's paradigm-shifting influence on the book business may not know it wasn't even the first online book retailer, or the second or the third. (It was preceded by clbooks.com, books.com, and wordsworth.com, the last of which beat Amazon.com to the Internet by almost two years.) Those who've heard quirky stories about Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos--for example, that he built his own desk out of a door, and that his mother bought the desk at an online charity auction in 1999 for $30,100--may not know that he was a studious overachiever from an early age. As a 12-year-old in Houston, he was even profiled in a book on gifted education in Texas. And those who marvel at the company's multibillion-dollar stock valuation may not know that it was broke and nearly out of business in the summer of '95.

Put it all together and you have a book that should be interesting to many different readers. As a pure business read, it certainly provides a blow-by-blow account of an important company's critical decisions. And anyone looking for a brief history of e-commerce will see how one idea--Bezos's realization in 1994 that Web usage was growing 2,300 percent a year--set the entire online retailing phenomenon in motion. If nothing else, that last fact should propel parents to pay very careful attention to their kids' math scores. Had Bezos, a summa cum laude Princeton grad in computer science, not realized the implications of exponential growth ... well, let's just say you wouldn't be reading this review right now. --Lou Schuler

From Publishers Weekly

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos declined to be interviewed for this book, relates Spector, a journalist who has written for USA Today and UPI. But Bezos had nothing to fear. Spector has taken an extremely benign look at the so-called e-commerce success story, beginning with Bezos's career as an investment banker, passing through Amazon.com's early days in a dingy warehouse, the search for investor dollars, the company's transformation from a virtual to a physical entity, skirmishes in the marketplaces and the courts and, finally, the improbable expansion into other products (besides books) and countries. Sometimes chronological, sometimes topical, this comprehensive overview is filled with interesting trivia (e.g., the company initially protected itself against credit card theft by walking a floppy disk from one PC to another instead of transmitting information over the Net). Unfortunately, Spector writes with a glibness that leaves the reader wondering exactly what he means: "Setting about to run a corporate culture from the ground up, Bezos focused on hiring the absolute best people he could find." In other cases, he starts down a promising road but never brings us to the end; for example, he writes that "in reality, in the quest to get big fast, the seemingly mild-mannered Bezos is a fierce, take-no-prisoners competitor," and proceeds to fuzzily document how Amazon gets closer to the consumer. Those looking for a quick primer on the growth of one of the world's most famous dot-coms will find this useful. Readers looking for a journalistically penetrating account, readers will be better served by the business press. (Apr)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1st edition (April 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066620414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066620411
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,615,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By P H Fisher on April 6, 2000
This book is a good introduction to Amazon and some of the basic philosophy behind the company. For those interested in establishing an e-commerce company it makes helpful reading, especially if our current knowledge of the technology is limited. Unfortunately the author did not interview Jeff Bezos and therefore much of the information was already in the public domain.
My criticism of the book is two fold. First there appears to be little or no information on the problems of establishing the technology and learning how to offer a customer centric service. As a long time customer of Amazon I for one have seen dramatic improvements in the customer service model; for instance allowing customers to consolidate orders and requesting part vs. full shipment are changes made after the first few years of trading. I think that a detailed analysis of these kinds of issues would have been really helpful.
Second the author appears to accept the business model that Amazon have developed - huge losses aimed at long-term market position without question. I would have liked a little bit more on the view expressed by Barnes and Noble that they don't want to win a hollow victory - owing the market and the losses.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Fleishman on April 5, 2000
Robert Spector has written a very fair and interesting account of how Jeff Bezos recruited and motivated a crack team of enormously talented, hardworking individuals into working vast amounts of time in creating something really new that benefitted consumers and transformed the book industry - and helped create the new economy. Spector's book is not money or number focused, which is a relief. There's been an infinite amount of that kind of reporting. His book is about the culture and the thrill of reinventing the world. The outcome of this new economy is still up in the air. But there's no doubt that Amazon.com started the revolution and contains to be the flag bearer for it. (A disclaimer: I was an early and brief - and happy - employee at Amazon.com, and I can vouch for Spector having captured the mood and excitement of the place during my time there.)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2004
"Get Big Fast" is the story of Amazon.com's inception and rise to e-commerce supremacy, as told by business reporter Robert Spector. This book seems to be intended for students of business or perhaps budding entrepreneurs. It offers very little analysis, but Spector gives us the facts -or at least some of them- of how the Internet's first store came to be its biggest. This is a Who did What When and Why of Amazon's first five and a half years, 1994-2000. The story starts before that, though. The first three chapters follow Amazon founder and president Jeff Bezos from his youth in Texas, through a successful career in the vicinity of Wall Street, to Seattle, where Amazon would be born. The remaining eight chapters trace Amazon's growth from the Bezos' garage, to makeshift offices and crowded warehouses, to Amazon's current residence in the lovely PacMed Tower, from 4 employees to 7600 on three continents. There is a list of "Takeaways" at the end of each chapter, which reiterate the chapter's major points and Amazon's strategy during that time. Since Jeff Bezos, et al created new technology as they were building a multi-billion dollar business, "Get Big Fast" discusses the creation of Amazon's web site and it's features, in addition to logistics, finances, and personalities. Since I spend a lot of time on this web site, I would have liked a more in-depth history of its features, but given that Robert Spector is a business writer and not a software developer, his slant is understandable. More analysis of Amazon's decisions in the context of retail sales would also have been welcome. But the fact that Amazon was a pioneer business model that many hailed as proof positive of the New Economy does make comparisons to other businesses tricky. As I write this, Amazon.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy M. Hoogsteen on May 11, 2000
Robert Spector provides you with a perspective on Amazon.com that it well known. The biggest strength of this book is that it allows an "outsider" to get to know who Jeff Bezos is from the perspective of his peers. I found myself at many points wishing that you could hear Jeff himself add his take on why he did the things that he did. It appears that many of his peers are almost in awe of him, too in awe to be critical of some of the choices made. This is not to say that the book is overly pro amazon; amazon and Jeff Bezos deserve tons of credit for what they are doing. But I think that this book would have benefited from Jeff himself describing the successes and failures of the company. Regardless, this is a nice book, one that I recommend to anyone interested in seeing how an internet business works, what its goals are, and how they achieve those goals.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BPG on May 14, 2005
Chances are, if you are reading this, you enjoy:

1)Books

2)Amazon

3)The internet

Add a sprinkling of interest in corporate business, and I don't see how you can NOT enjoy this book.

It certainly was an education for me. As a non-American (South African) my previous view of Bezos was totally naive. I had a picture of a nerdy computer graduate who loved books and stumbled upon the right thing at the right time. Maybe Americans were better informed, but my view couldn't have been further from the truth. Bezos, it seems, was being unknowingly prepared for Amazon, from an early age. Sure his timing was perfect, but had he not had the well honed technological, intellectual and business experience and expertise, Amazon would not have happened.

Spector does tend to deify Bezos, but whether or not Bezos will ever live up to this characterisation, he has certainly made lasting cultural, as well as corporate history.
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