Dec 16 - 22
Ships from: Magnolia A Books Sold by: Magnolia A Books
Other Sellers on Amazon
Follow the Author
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon Hardcover – Illustrated, October 15, 2013
|New from||Used from|
Explore your book, then jump right back to where you left off with Page Flip.
View high quality images that let you zoom in to take a closer look.
Enjoy features only possible in digital – start reading right away, carry your library with you, adjust the font, create shareable notes and highlights, and more.
Discover additional details about the events, people, and places in your book, with Wikipedia integration.
Enhance your purchase
Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn't content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that's never been cracked. Until now. Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech's other elite innovators -- Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg -- Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.
The Everything Store is the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now.
Chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Forbes, The New Republic, The Economist, Bloomberg,and Gizmodo, and as one of the Top 10 Investigative Journalism Books by Nieman Reports
"Mr. Stone tells this story with authority and verve, and lots of well-informed reporting.... A dynamic portrait of the driven and demanding Mr. Bezos." -- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Engrossing.... Stone's long tenure covering both Bezos and Amazon gives his retelling a sureness that keeps the story moving swiftly." -- New York Times Book Review
"Jeff Bezos is one of the most visionary, focused, and tenacious innovators of our era, and like Steve Jobs he transforms and invents industries. Brad Stone captures his passion and brilliance in this well-reported and compelling narrative." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
"Stone's account moves swiftly and surely." -- New York Times Book Review, "Editor's Choice"
"The Everything Store is a revelatory read for everyone--those selling and those sold to--who wants to understand the dynamics of the new digital economy. If you've ever one-clicked a purchase, you must read this book." -- Steven Levy, author of Hackers and In the Plex
"A deeply reported and deftly written book.... Like Steven Levy's "In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives," and "Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry -- and Made Himself the Richest Man in America" by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, it is the definitive account of how a tech icon came to life." -- Seattle Times
"Stone's book, at last, gives us a Bezos biography that can fit proudly on a shelf next to the best chronicles of America's other landmark capitalists." -- Forbes
"Stone's tale of the birth, near-death, and impressive revival of an iconic American company is well worth your time." -- Matthew Yglesias, Slate
"An engaging and fascinating read.... An excellent chronicle of Amazon's rise.... A gift for entrepreneurs and business builders of the new generation." -- Business Insider
"Outstanding.... An authoritative, deeply reported, scoopalicious, nuanced, and balanced take that pulls absolutely no punches." -- Adam Lashinsky, Fortune
"Fair-minded, virtually up-to-the-minute history of the retail and technology behemoth and the prodigious brain behind it.... Stone's inside knowledge of a company ordinarily stingy with information is evident throughout the book.... Stone presents a nuanced portrait of the entrepreneur, especially as he sketches in Bezos' unusual family history and a surprising turn it took during the writing of the book. His reporting on the Kindle's disruption of traditional publishing makes for riveting reading. A must-add to any business bookshelf." -- Kirkus
"Brad Stone has done a remarkable job in The Everything Store, in a way that Bezos would appreciate...." -- The Financial Times
"An immersive play-by-play of the company's ascent.... It's hard to imagine a better retelling of the Amazon origin story." -- The New Republic
"The meticulously reported book has plenty of gems for anyone who cares about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, entrepreneurship, leadership just the lunacy it took to build a company in less than two decades that now employs almost 90,000 people and sold $61 billion worth of, well, almost everything last year." -- Washington Post
"Stone has broken new ground, demonstrating the massive influence Amazon exercises not only in the retail sector, but also throughout society, including government regulation or the lack of it." -- Neiman Reports
"Offers absorbing management insights... Insiders will get a serious glimpse at an industry behemoth." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A tome that paints a fascinating picture of a remarkable tech entrepreneur." -- The Economist
"Illuminating." -- Salon
"Stone's shoe-leather reporting is what makes the book stand out." -- GeekWire
"As fine a profile of a secretive, fast-growing company as you are likely to encounter." -- Michael Moritz, Chairman, Sequoia Capital, LinkedIn.com
About the Author
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; Illustrated edition (October 15, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316219266
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316219266
- Item Weight : 1.36 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #408,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on April 28, 2021
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
That's what this book reminds me of...full of stories that have some piece of reality, but most of the key pieces are either fiction or skewed to meet the author's thesis.
Let me start by saying I respect Brad. I've been interviewed by him a couple times, and found him professional. His stories have been pretty straight down the middle, so the content of this book surprised me because it was so skewed. Not sure if this was because Brad didn't speak in depth to the senior leaders at the Company or because he wanted the book to be more compelling so he spiced it up. But, I've been at Amazon for 16 years, worked for Jeff directly for nearly 12 years, worked on all of Amazon's businesses, and either have first-hand knowledge or pretty good visibility to many of the topics in the book, and the book presents a distorted and often inaccurate perspective.
Here are a few examples:
- the Quidsi acquisition: did Amazon have to compete with other companies for that acquisition? Sure. This is pretty typical in acquisitions. Did Amazon plan to announce Amazon Mom while the founders were in a meeting at Amazon so they couldn't respond immediately? Come on. Really? That's pretty absurd. Who did Brad speak with who was deeply involved that confirmed that? Was it Jeff Blackburn or Peter Krawiec, the guys who managed the deal? Or, Doug Herrington, who managed Amazon Mom? No. Apparently, Brad asked Jeff Blackburn whether this was planned and Jeff told him unequivocally it was not. This is a keystone anecdote in the book and the punch line is made up. Girl scout attacked...by dog!
- The 2001 story about when Amazon decided to lower prices is inaccurate. It wasn't some grand announcement in a s-team (Jeff Bezos’s senior leadership team) meeting. Like most things at Amazon, it was through a series of meetings where we were discussing the business and what we wanted to change to drive growth and customer experience. It sounds more dramatic that it came after meeting Former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and in a grand announcement thereafter at s-team. Problem is, it just isn't true. And, I know because I was in the meeting where we made this call as I was running the Music business at the time.
- When Alan Brown left the Marketing leadership role, it was Lance Batchelor and I that co-led marketing. Not Jeff Holden and me (as the author reports).
- The comments about the TVs given away for the person who came up with the most bureaucratic process in the company, once again, was only half right. Yes, there was the award. But, we never ran out of the TVs or morphed it into the Door Desk Award. We stopped giving out the bureaucracy award well before the TVs were all given out (the program wasn't quite accomplishing what we'd intended), and the Door Desk Award was an independent idea that was conceived and started.
- Several parts of the AWS origin story are inaccurate, and I won't list them all here, but a couple examples: (1) Brad talks about iterating fast by layering services like Flexible Payments Service and Amazon CloudSearch alongside EC2 and S3...while it's accurate that we layered on new services, the key services that we launched that meaningfully expanded the breadth of AWS were Elastic Block Store (EBS) in 2008, CloudFront (our Content Distribution Network) in 2008, and Relational Database Service (RDS) in 2009 (CloudSearch wasn’t launched until 2012); (2) the vision document proposing the AWS business and outlining the initial set of services for AWS (including our compute service, EC2) was finished and presented to the executive team in September 2003. I wrote the document and was lucky to have the help of several people in putting it together. This was about a year before Chris Pinkham moved to South Africa to build the initial version of EC2. Chris played an integral role in the definition, team-building, and product-building of EC2 (despite leaving before EC2 was launched). There are several errors in this section, and at the end of the day, you could debate how much they matter. But, an impeccably, well researched account it's not.
- "Jeff Bots": In 16 years, I have never heard this term once (and I sponsor several cultural events that attract people from all levels of the organization-- like Tatonka, our buffalo wing eating club). Further, I know the people Brad calls "Jeff Bots" very well. I can't tell if Brad is just badly informed or making this up for drama, but I can tell you that calling people like Steve Kessel or Russ Grandinetti robots is ignorant and another sure sign that this author didn't get inside the Amazon culture closely. I've sat in countless meetings with Steve and Russ where they've come up with strikingly inventive ideas, and fought hard and challenged peers and Jeff Bezos. You don't get far at Amazon by being a robot and caving on what you think is important. "Have Backbone" is an important part of one of our key leadership principles ("Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit"), and the people Brad dismissively calls "Jeff Bots" have backbone in spades. I took this section either as Brad trying to make the book more interesting or his being frustrated that he doesn't get more interesting press interviews with Amazon leaders because they stay on message. Having a strong culture that the leadership team really buys into is very different than having a group of robots who do what they're told. The former is part of what's made Amazon successful the last 18 years (and especially the last 10); the latter is an interesting, but nearly impossible way to be successful in the breadth of businesses Amazon's pursuing-- and plain wrong.
- The Culture: Of all the things in the book, this is arguably the most inaccurately stated. The notion that most "Amazon employees live in perpetual fear" is bizarre. Do some? Maybe. Suspect that's the case at any company that has high standards. But, do most? No way. The manner in which Brad characterizes Jeff Bezos and the culture is like dissecting Lebron James' career and saying that he's a bad shooter because you mostly detail his missed shots or that he can't win the big game because he didn't win the championship in his first few years in the NBA. In 18 years, if you want to tell the story that Amazon can be tough on people who don't meet the standards, or Jeff can get impatient and frustrated, it's easy to do. But, just like you need to look at Lebron's total body of work that includes four MVP awards, regular season and playoffs MVP awards the last couple years, and a second straight championship (while making a bevy of clutch, difficult plays along the way), to get the right picture of Amazon's culture, you need to look at the collective body of work. I've been the subject of Jeff's frustration at times through the years, and seen him get frustrated with others, but in the thousands of meetings I’ve attended with Jeff over the last 16 years, I can tell you that this has happened a tiny fraction of the time. Jeff is quite inventive and smart, but also collaborative, an amazing brainstormer, a long-term thinker, not one to give up on an initiative easily, and fun. He's also the single best learner I've met, and like many, has continued to evolve his leadership style over the last 10 years. It's clear to me that this author over-relied on interviews with people who had difficult interactions or endings with Jeff, and mostly in the first half of the Company's history.
In my own case, my plan was to come to Amazon for 2-3 years, and then head back home to NYC. I'm still at Amazon in substantial part because of the culture and Jeff. I can't think of another place that starts and ends with the customer the way Amazon does, or that thinks long-term rather than optically for a quarter, or that looks at an area of business (or customer experience) and doesn't let itself get blocked by existing convention, or that gives people who deliver a chance to try any new entrepreneurial venture that makes sense regardless of their experience level in that area, or that hires builders who are unleashed to go change the world, or has such a sharp, inventive, big-thinking, high bias for action, collegial, hungry, and delivery oriented culture. It's why I'm still here 16 years later, Charlie Bell is still here 15 years later, Jeff Blackburn 15 years later, Russ Grandinetti 15 years later, Steve Kessel, 14 years later, Jeff Wilke 14 years later, David Zapolsky 14 years later, Paul Kotas 14 years later, Diego Piacentini 13 years later, Tom Szkutak 11 years later, and the list goes on. There are plenty of opportunities to work elsewhere. We all get the calls. And, you can argue that the start-up scene in Seattle hasn't gotten its "fair" share of new entrepreneurs from Amazon. That's because people are staying at Amazon for an inordinately long time. We work hard here, but Amazon is a builder's dream, and if you want a chance to change the world in a pervasive way, there's no better place.
There are many other examples I could cite (my Kindle is marked with about 30 places that are highlighted as inaccurate or misrepresented), but you get the idea.
This is the problem when you write a book and don't talk in depth (i.e. many hours) to the principal players who have the full detail. People argue that this book is really well-researched. I disagree. Just because you conduct 300 interviews doesn't make it well researched. That's like giving credit to a book for the number of pages or footnotes it contains. It's not the number of interviews as much as who you talked to, what access they have to the true details of what's going on, whether you can represent the way the company evolves over time, and what the author then chooses to weave together as his story arc. I find it nearly impossible to tell an accurate and representative account of Amazon and its culture over the last 18 years if you haven't spent lots of hours with people like Jeff Bezos, Rick Dalzell, Jeff Wilke, Tom Szkutak, Jeff Blackburn, Diego Piacentini, Steve Kessel, Russ Grandinetti, Charlie Bell, David Zapolsky, myself, and other long-time senior folks who know these stories you're trying to write about and understand the culture deeply. Brad didn't talk to Jeff Bezos at all, and spent about an hour with a few of those other people but in a pretty high level way (not really trying to get deep at the core of what makes the culture tick or what have been the defining chapters in the Company). They were light questions (e.g. “Is it true you hit Jeff with a canoe paddle in your first month?”) or cursory questions that didn't seem to be considered very deeply in the writing. You can ask these people above and they'll tell you the same thing. Would they have told Brad the inner workings of Amazon? I don't know. Amazon is quiet in that respect. But, I do suspect they would have been happy to help Brad avoid getting the culture wrong, or the Quidsi story wrong (in this case, they tried), or several other of the errors.
Further, just because it might be frustrating that you can't get the primary characters to tell you everything you want doesn't mean you do your best to make it up yourself. That doesn't lead to an accurate or definitive non-fiction book. It might mean that you don't get to do the non-fiction book you’ve had your heart set on doing. But, that's a more noble path than getting it wrong like this.
So, the mantle is still open to tell the real story of Amazon. I’m not baiting people to fill the void, but do know this book isn't it.
As I write this review, Amazon just announced a partnership with the US Postal Service to start delivering on Sundays for Prime members in key cities. This backs up the best description I have heard of Amazon and its founder -- which, amusingly, comes from the blog of ex-Amazon employee Eugene Wei, someone who was not interviewed in this book.
"Amazon has boundless ambition," Wei writes. "It wants to eat global retail... there are very few people in technology and business who are what I'd call apex predators. Jeff [Bezos] is one of them, the most patient and intelligent one I've met in my life. An apex predator doesn't wake up one day and decide it is done hunting."
Stock valuation aside -- you either believe or you don't, and as of this writing Bezos is clearly having a messianic moment -- "The Everything Store" is an excellent chronicle of Amazon's rise.
In the book -- and I don't mean this as a criticism -- Bezos comes off as the lead character in an Ayn Rand novel. A real world John Galt or Hank Rearden, with an e-commerce twist. The immigrant step-father who taught him the value of hard work... the maternal grandfather who instilled a deep do-it-yourself attitude... the flashes of extraordinary competitiveness from an early age... the burning desire to conquer space... it all coalesces into a sense of destiny (though, of course, a good portion of this could be narrative hindsight).
Steve Jobs was the last great business figure, the hero entrepreneur of our time. I think that, reputationally, Bezos will ultimately surpass Jobs -- leave him in the dust, really -- because while, what Bezos is doing is unsexy, the fundamental nature of "hard problems" that Amazon approaches and solves (on its way to eating global retail) is adding to the free market knowledge base at a tremendous evolutionary rate.
One of the most intriguing and powerful things about Amazon, in my opinion, is the sheer logistical prowess of what they do behind the scenes. The coordination of supply chains, manpower, algorithmic decision making, and countless other unseen problems they have had to solve on the way to delivering "everything" in a two-day shipping window is off-the-charts impressive.
To a certain degree Apple accomplished a similar behind-the-scenes feat, in that Apple's masterful ability to implement and coordinate global supply chains made it the most profitable company in the world for a time. But Apple's breathtaking profit margins always had a slightly ephemeral feel to them. You knew that someone (like Samsung or Google's Android) would eventually come along and take a bite of the Apple so to speak... whereas with Bezos' strategy, staking out the hard, grinding, low-nutrient territory of thin margins, the next competitor is going to have to get bloody in the toughest octagon of all (logistics and scale). As Bezos likes to say, "Your margin is my opportunity," which should scare the hell out of any large retailer, perhaps save Wal-Mart (and maybe even Wal-Mart too).
Those who doubt Amazon's business model (myself among them in the past) have been prone to use the "switch flip" criticism, e.g. bullish investors assume Amazon will one day be able to "flip a switch" and become profitable. But I agree with Eugene Wei that this is an overly simplistic characterization of a more subtle process. In reality, Amazon is less like a company with one switch to flip and more like one with tens of thousands of individual switches, each of which can be incrementally adjusted to swing from loss to profit when the time is right. This seems far less fantastical when you picture thousands upon thousands of instances where, say, a 2% margin mark-up creates profit where previously there was break-even, and/or a simple slowdown in the prodigious rate of ongoing capital expenditure spending lets more cash flow spill over into the profit column.
As for the prodigious capital expenditures, Amazon's most recent quarterly revenue figure, as of this writing, was roughly $17 billion. Bezos no doubt foresees the day when that quarterly number will hit $100 billion. On the way there, it only makes sense for him to exploit every inch of leeway he can get from Wall Street -- in terms of taking all the money and opportunity he can for long-term investment -- with the goal of scaling up the infrastructure to serve and support an order-of-magnitude larger sales base. If investors get loopy with their valuation assessments in the meantime, so be it. The vision is the thing for Bezos... just as it has always been.
But getting back to "The Everything Store," my favorite thing about this book was the brutally honest nature of the flaws and the messiness of Amazon's evolution (and the evolution of Bezos himself) in the first 5-10 years or so of the company's existence.
Through an excellent weave of facts, narrative anecdotes and storytelling, you get a clear picture of how Amazon surged out of the gate in the late 1990s, and then almost choked to death on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bad acquisitions it made with "bubble money." Many dumb mistakes were made, some deservedly fatal... but Amazon survived them all, and managed to learn from them too.
The evolution of Bezos as a CEO is fully apparent as well. While those who ponder Bezos today are likely to assume he stepped on the world's stage as a wise genius fully formed, in actuality he picked up many of his strong core beliefs along the course of Amazon's existence, learning through intense study of rivals and mentors from afar, like D.E. Shaw (early on) and Sam Walton and Jim Sinegal of Costco.
The book is really a gift for entrepeneurs and business builders of the new generation -- like myself, ahem cough cough -- in the manner it lays bare the luck, the guts, and the serious mistakes that are inevitably made on the way to forming a world-class enterprise.
The other thing that really came through is the sheer ruthlessness of Bezos. (No doubt this is what got Mackenzie Bezos riled up -- what spouse wants to see their husband portrayed as a tyrant?) But as the book points out, there is a reason why so many of the great builders in tech -- Gates, Ellison, Jobs and so on -- all had that same ruthless character to them. Building and scaling a world-dominating business is hard. As in really, really hard. When you are trying do something on that kind of scale, with that level of competitiveness, you are not just fighting against cut-throat competitors. You are also fighting against entropy and mediocrity, that pull of ordinary results, ordinary outcome (as opposed to extraordinary) that holds back every ambitious endeavor in the same manner the NASA shuttle is held back by gravity. It takes something special to get off the launching pad, let alone into orbit.
The fact that Bezos can be extremely ruthless, even cold-blooded, in pursuit of his vision, will not gain extra points with much of his audience. (No doubt a reason Amazon itself wants to tone that side down.) But investors should be glad for this trait, and it's a trait that benefits capitalism on the whole too. When a strong player legitimately uses skill and efficiency to best a weaker player in the marketplace, costs are lowered as such that customers benefit, and other businesses can learn from the strong player's pioneering example.
The final chapters of the book showed Amazon at its most ruthless by far. I had no idea the level of wargame strategy that had occurred in the purchase of Zappos. The Quidsi (diapers.com) acquisition was simultaneously even more brilliant and brutal. You do not, not, not want to be in head-to-head competition with Amazon. It is here where I stop and whisper a small prayer of thanks to the free market gods that my own career path does not involve selling commodity-type retail products.
I had reason to examine my own motives as to why I enjoyed this book so much. I am a trader, not a retailer. While I have plans to lead and scale a business to large (perhaps even very large) size, it has nothing to do with traditional retail really. So why was this book so fascinating? Perhaps for the sheer cultural value of what Bezos represents and what he has accomplished. Here is a guy who started out smart, talented and exceptionally bold, and had the chutzpah to act on a wildly ambitious vision and see it through every step of the way. Learning and stumbling as he went, sometimes screwing up royally, but always pulling in the errors and coming back from the brink... having laid the architecture more than a dozen years ago to sustain a vision ten times bigger (or maybe even 100 times).
The broader inspirational lesson from the Amazon story, I think, is the reaffirmation of what's possible when motivated dreamers decide to work harder, work smarter, and break traditional molds all at the same time. You really can execute on a compelling vision. You really can get a team together and, with the help of that team, accomplish a hundred or a thousand times more than you ever could running solo. You really can practice patience and boldness -- no coincidence "bold" is one of Bezos' favorite words -- and in so doing apply an Art-of-War like strategic nous to flanking and beating your rivals. Big and exciting things can be done in this world.
Top reviews from other countries
The author, Brad Stone, is a well respected US journalist with a strong pedigree in this arena, and with The Everything Store he really delivers. The book appears well researched with lots of rich history, from the amusing to the serious technical details, and introduces the reader to a lot of the key players in the business.
As a longtime Amazon user I thought I knew a lot about it, but it turns out that Amazon is like an iceberg and we only see a small percentage of the real company on the surface, the rest of the behemoth is under the surface, away from view.
This book is very readable, Stone has turned what could have been a quite dry subject into a fascinating read that keeps you turning the page. Some books in this genre are heavy going, but this one has just enough story-telling weaved through the cold facts to keep you interested to the end.
If you're interested in Amazon or the way that billion dollar businesses are built and run this will make for a great read which I highly recommend.
Clearly in all the above, Amazon has been massively successful. Yet it has faced criticism over tax and some of its employee policies, and as Brad Stone, and many past employees point out, Amazon has no culture of work-life balance and different teams working together: Bezos appears to believe that creative tension creates progress and drives up standards. There is a powerful feeling across the political divide in the US that Amazon has got too big and is exercising a distorting effect on many markets (though some of this is caused by political jealousy, for example Trump's dislike of the liberal Washington Post newspaper, also owned by Bezos). Brad Stone is apparently writing an updated version of this book, which should be an interesting read. Certainly, barring some unforeseen catastrophe, Amazon's capacity for forward-looking thinking and not resting on its laurels seems set to ensure it continues to evolve and play a key role in online retail for many years to come.
Yet one of the most memorable stories in Brad Stone's account of how Jeff Bezos made such a success of Amazon is just such an encounter with a senior manager. They were giving answers that Bezos did not believe about the speed with which the phones were being answered by the customer service team. So in the middle of a meeting with senior managers, Bezos put a phone on loudspeaker, dialed Amazon's customer service number and started ostentatiously timing how long it took to be answered. He'd been told that calls were being answered in less than a minute, but the meeting had to sit in excruciating silence as the minutes ticked up before finally the phone was answered.
A devastatingly effective way of making a point, true. But how do you combine such a brutish attitude at times with an ability to recruit, retain and motivate the sort of brilliant staff you need, especially when Amazon wasn't paying high wages? The mystery is deepened by the grimly humorous collection of stories of other technology CEOs and their abrasive behaviour that Brad Stone presents in the book.
As with Steve Jobs, reading about Jeff Bezos and all his quirks in dealing with other human beings (not to mention Amazon's huge sums spent on failed takeovers) leaves you wondering for much of the time if you're reading an account of a brilliant success or a tragic failure. Clearly the path Amazon has taken shows he - like Jobs - is the former.
But whilst Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs does answer the question of how Jobs and Apple ended up so successful despite his manner, in the case of Bezos and Amazon, Brad Stone leaves that question only partly answered. Early on in the book Amazon is but one amongst many online book selling startups. Stone explains well why traditional bookselling firms found it difficult to move into the online business, constrained as they were by their heavy investment in offline stores. Why, though, did Amazon triumph from all those different online startups? That Stone doesn't tell us.
The more successful Amazon gets, the better Stone's book does explain its gathering momentum, especially thanks to Bezos's insistence on using Amazon's scale to drive prices as low as possible. There are two types of company, Bezos says. Those that looks to charge as high a price as possible (think Apple) and those that look to charge as low a price as possible (think Amazon). Amazon's low prices may have kept its profits down, but they have hugely boosted its size and, while Apple's high margins have attracted big competitors eating into its market, Amazon's low margins have kept competitors out of the market, leaving more space for it to grow even further.
It's a shame though that the initial crucial breakthrough remains unexplained even by the end of an enjoyable book.
There is no doubt that Amazon is a wonderful company from the consumer's point of view. However it has used its immense power in the marketplace to reduce what creative individuals, small companies and employees can earn for their hard work.
This book does not have much information on what it is like to work in an Amazon warehouse. This topic has been covered extensively and its absence makes the book incomplete. As a society, we need to question whether it is right for any company to treat employees badly, and to do so we need good information about the reality of the workplace.
Jeff Bezos was adopted by his stepfather, and until fairly recently he did not have any contact with his biological father. The author of this book decided to track down his biological father, who did not know that the son he fathered grew up to be Jeff Bezos, and to reveal this information to him. I consider the author's interference in the Bezos family relationships to be unethical. Journalists are meant to report a story, not alter the story to make their book more 'interesting'.