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Overall a good book, but falls short on depth
on October 31, 2011
I guess it really depends on how much you already know about Jeff Bezos and the history of Amazon - that will probably determine whether you enjoy the book, IMHO. I knew very little, so I got a good, quick oversight into Jeff Bezos as a businessman, and into Amazon's early days. It discusses his strengths and questions his weaknesses as a business leader quite extensively. The traits that made him successful are probably his acute decision making abilities (why he chose books instead of CDs at first, why Seattle over CA, etc), long-term perspective, and a unique ability to execute decisions to precision.
Both sides of Amazon's book business - customers who want lower prices, and publishers who want to keep authors in business, are discussed at length. Amazon may have been portrayed, willingly or unwillingly, in a poor light here. I think Amazon is doing what is right by their customers and what any business would do in order to keep a competitive edge in the marketplace. It's a free market economy and any company is welcome to step in and help publishers get a higher price if they are able to do so - Amazon is not stopping them. There are two sides to the debate, both sides with their own merits, but I think the author spends more time on Amazon's ruthless negotiations with publication houses.
While there is lengthy discussion about the early days of Amazon, the ongoing battles with publishers, and Blue Origin, not much has been discussed about the current market Amazon is operating in and its projected path forward. Cloud computing, for example, is discussed only fleetingly.
The book reveals nothing new in itself, except maybe the early years of Bezos that I wasn't familiar with. If you're reading about the history of Amazon for the first time or know little about the subject, this book is probably a great starting point because it puts together bits and pieces of information that are fragmented all over the internet. However, the book seems to lack thoughtful analysis or insight into the company that would blow readers away. It's cut and dry from that perspective. Reading it on the Kindle, I didn't keep track of when the book would end, but when I realized that it had ended, I was puzzled, it felt incomplete. Sort of like eating an appetizer and realizing that that is it, there is no main course on the way.