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The Perfect Store: Inside eBay Hardcover – June 5, 2002
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In the short but wild history of the Internet, few companies have developed such an ideal approach to utilizing the uniqueness of the medium for business as eBay--hence the title of Adam Cohen's colorful and insightful corporate biography The Perfect Store. Cohen, chief technology writer for Time magazine before joining The New York Times' editorial board, is the only journalist to receive complete cooperation from the company for such a project, and the combination of access and experience leads to a well-researched and well-written tale capturing the essence of this online auction-house phenomenon. In the process, Cohen reveals how the pioneering site first developed into a vibrant virtual community, then a cultural icon and a model for Web-based commerce that reported revenue of $749 million in 2001.
From its beginnings as a hobby site on a Silicon Valley PC, to its maturation as a real company under the burgeoning fiscal pressures of cyberspace, to its present status as one of the few original e-business practitioners to survive the dot.com implosion, eBay has always been part of the crowd while managing to stand out from it. Cohen helps us understand why by taking us inside the heads of major players like Pierre Omidyar, the cofounder who imbued his site with a Libertarian philosophy responsible for its heart and soul, and Meg Whitman, the seasoned manager who brought business savvy and a Harvard MBA to its roller-coaster world. What helps make the book so readable and informative, though, are Cohen's accompanying observations of the many other people and events that also helped eBay develop its trademark direction and characteristic personality: the company that formulated its distinctive logo, the Kansas City clothing-iron collectors whose pastime was transformed by the upstart Web site, the quirky listings that generated controversy (and publicity) like the one in 1999 for a "fully functional kidney," even detractors who decry its big-business underpinnings. Fans of the site, along with students of the online world in general, will find Cohen's account both instructive and enjoyable. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
This book's huge cast of supporting characters is considerably more interesting than its nominal stars, eBay's founders and senior management. To some extent that's unavoidable. How can anyone be more colorful than the Elvis aficionados and bubble-wrap entrepreneurs that inhabit eBay's virtual landscape? Yet readers may wish for a little more meat to the descriptions of those who built eBay into the leading online auction site. Cofounder Jeff Skoll and CEO Meg Whitman, MBAs from Stanford and Harvard, never come across as anything but one-dimensional. The most refreshing detail about Pierre Omidyar, eBay's other cofounder, is that before making his billions in the company's IPO he always knocked off work after eight hours. Unfortunately, with Omidyar the book descends into the usual hagiography of high-tech entrepreneurs. Cohen, a New York Times editorial board member and former technology reporter for Time, is much more evenhanded toward the hordes of eBay loyalists and more than a few detractors. Their zeal supports his claim that part of the company's market dominance is based on a sense of community. The company has carefully cultivated this perception, one of the book's most fascinating revelations. In the early days, staffers routinely sounded off on the site's bulletin boards using pseudonyms, even denying that they worked for eBay when asked. Cohen's quality of writing and research is above average for a high-tech tome. One wonders, however, if his insider access he claims to be the first journalist to be granted this at eBay makes him a little too nice to the principals.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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I can't give a content as the book doesn't have a clear table of content or structure. The book just starts with the story of the eBay founder, Piette Omidyar, and his initial creation of AuctionWeb (pre-eBay). How he met with Jeff Skoll and set up the company that eventually became known as eBay. It is an interesting story, yet a lot of details on the challenges of creating the site are left out of the book.
The rest of the book just continues telling different stories from eBay and most of them are somewhat in chronological order. There is especially a strong focus on community and how eBay direction was driven by the eBay community... and actions that eBay did to upset the community. Examples of these are the discussion about selling guns, the discussion about putting ads on the site, and several others (such as policies about used underwear). The stories were fun to read, interesting, yet didn't feel very special. But the book is well written, in the sense that it is easy to read and was a fun read.
My biggest disappointment about the perfect store was that it was less about eBay than I had hoped. I mean, it was less about the eBay company. It was obvious that the author wasn't very technical and not a huge eBay user either. So, the book omits nearly every technical detail and even describes (in true MBA fashion) the technical side as a side-thing, whereas the site is actually the main and only thing eBay has. Similarly, it didn't really talk too much of eBay as an organization, which made me feel, at times, the book was shallow.
In conclusion. A good and fun read. Yet, disappointing as I expected more. Therefore, I'll stick with 3 stars as I did enjoy the book, but wouldn't quickly recommend it to people. Only recommended if you are a eBay fan. Not when you want to know about the company history nor when you want to know about technical things and internet startups.
This is a great read hands down and should be read by anyone interested on how eBay got started or is interested in how a simple idea can be a game changer.
This book definitely has a neutral to positive spin. If you're looking for ebay bashing this isn't it.
the book is interesting and a lot of times humorous,you will never get bored reading it. In example, the investor who walk in their office one day in their early stage thinking what ebay look like and found out it was on a rented office, no receptionist was on hand to greet them and there was absolutely no chance anyone was going to offer him a cup of coffee