Fair-minded, virtually up-to-the-minute history of the retail and technology behemoth and the prodigious brain behind it.
Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Stone has covered Amazon, “the company that was among the first to see the boundless promise of the Internet and that ended up forever changing the way we shop and read,” and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, among other technology stories, for 15 years, and his inside knowledge of a company ordinarily stingy with information is evident throughout the book. In addition to speaking to Bezos several times over the years, including an interview for this book, Stone also spoke with employees across all levels of the company, from C-level officers and software developers to fulfillment center “associates,” including many who have moved on. The author’s research, which also included access to volumes of emails and other internal documents, revealed an extraordinarily difficult corporate culture for ordinary human beings to work in, one designed to forge (but not necessarily reward) people able to think like Bezos. The ultimate objective of this culture was to create the illusion for the consumer of a frictionless shopping experience, originally for books but ultimately for every product imaginable. The patented one-click shopping button, which enabled online customers to order, pay for and have shipped any item with a single click of the mouse, was the apotheosis of Amazon’s consumer-oriented ethos. But this illusion required an enormous amount of friction behind the scenes. Bezos, a billionaire several times over whose ultimate dream is to blast himself into space from a launch pad he’s building on his enormous Texas ranch, is notorious for squeezing as much productivity out of his underpaid employees as is humanly possible. 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.