**Winner of the 2013 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award**
Though Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail, its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, was never content with being just a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become ‘the everything store’, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To achieve that end, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that's never been cracked. Until now...
Jeff Bezos stands out for his relentless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way that Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing. Amazon placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet. Nothing would ever be the same again.
I had heard scuttlebutt that the book was hostile to Amazon. I didn't find that to be the case at all. In fact, it increased my admiration for Jeff and what he and his team have accomplished.
To be sure, it is incomplete and doubtless has many inaccuracies, but it gives insight into the mind of a remarkable man and the company he has built - a company with profound influence on the present and future shape of our society.
After Steve Jobs died, everyone was saying "Will we ever see his like again?" I would always respond, "What do you mean? He's already here, and his name is Jeff Bezos. He's the only other tech entrepreneur I know who has transformed multiple industries, and shown the ability to work his magic not once but many times. He's been the misunderstood underdog who came out on top because of vision, passion, and persistence."
(OK, since then, Elon Musk has shown signs of pulling off the same ambition. But the fact remains that Jeff is one of the most important and successful entrepreneurs of our time.)
Because of my admiration and liking for Jeff, I was a bit dismayed to see the book position me as an "adversary." While in some ways I am a competitor to Amazon, I think of myself more as a partner and friend than any kind of adversary! And while Jeff and I have occasionally butted heads, first about the 1-click patent back in 2000 (a conflict that ended up with us as friends), and later about some of Amazon's overly aggressive business tactics towards suppliers (described in chapter 10 of the book), and about the use of a proprietary DRM'd ebook format rather than open standards for the Kindle, I have always been a huge fan.
One of the things the book gets across is what a great learner Jeff is. It makes clear just how freshly he responded to the challenges of growing his business, relying on some uncompromising principles but also adapting them so that, as long-time Amazon employee Rick Dalzell described, he always engaged his decision-making around "the best truth at the time." (Chapter 9, page 267) His intense curiosity is one of the most striking things about him.
The book also underplays Jeff's humanity, humor, and kindness. There are a lot of stories of how forceful, even abrasive, he sometimes is with subordinates - and I imagine that can be unpleasant. But I also know just how hard it is to get thousands of people moving in the same direction without ruffling any feathers. And some of the changes that Jeff had to make to the company direction required enormous determination and force of will. I wish that some other leaders I know (e.g. in government) had equal clarity and determination.
The book also really helped me see how deep Jeff's focus on the customer is. While I have always believed that focus to be sincere, I have also always worried that it would fade as the company became dominant, as is so often the case. But the book makes clear again and again how it really is a touchstone for Jeff.
I have also worried that focus on the customer isn't enough - that companies that become as powerful as Amazon also need to understand the complete ecosystem in which they operate. The book's account of Amazon's sometimes brutal interactions with companies that it wanted to acquire, like Quidsi, the company behind diapers.com (page 298), and suppliers like German knife-maker Wusthof (page 300 and ff) makes clear that Amazon hasn't fully learned that lesson, and seems to believe that as long as customers benefit, it's ok to hurt suppliers. Sometimes that is true, when suppliers are inefficient or exploitive of their customers, but in other cases, squeezing all the profit out of suppliers' businesses is enormously short sighted. The ideal ecosystem is one where everyone flourishes, not where one company flourishes at the expense of all the others.
But I got a lot of hope from reading about Jeff's "Amazon.love memo" (Chapter 10, page 317-318), in which he analyzed why some big and powerful companies are hated, while others continue to engender love from not only their customers but their entire ecosystem. In particular, I liked that one of the principles that Jeff distilled was this one:
"Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool."
I've long urged companies to make "Create more value than you capture" their watchword, because it seems to me that building a healthy ecosystem in which everyone - employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors - can flourish is key to the positive impact that capitalism can have on society as a whole. The fact that Jeff is thinking about this as Amazon gets more dominant is a really good sign. Some companies never realize that they need to be especially careful to create value for everyone as they get larger and more powerful.
My chief beef about the book is that it skimped on some of the really big management lessons from Amazon. For me one of the most fascinating things about Amazon is the way that it seems to have modeled its organizational culture on its software. Stories I've heard about the way small teams are organized at Amazon remind me of the way modern modular software is designed. I suspect that Amazon has cracked the code of the problem that was once laid out to me by the CIO of Fidelity Investments: "We know about all these new technologies. What we don't know is how to organize our company around them."
In addition, I wish there were more written about the design of Amazon's internal services. When Jeff had the insight that led to the rise of Amazon as a platform - not only that its software needed to make the transition from a single monolithic application to a series of reusable web services, but also that those services should be designed in such a way that they could be re-used as easily by developers outside the company as by its internal units - he demonstrated a lesson that has yet to be learned by most large organizations.
Take the recent healthcare.gov debacle. One of the functions that the system depends on is income verification by the IRS. That lookup is, consistent with monolithic old-school software development, a tightly integrated part of the application rather than a true reusable service. If healthcare.gov were designed with the lessons of Amazon in mind, not only could the Federal healthcare.gov site call IRS web services to do income verification, but so could any of the state healthcare exchanges, or, for that matter, any private insurance company - or any company that needed to do income verification for any purpose.
I realize that this is a general business book, and getting too deep on the technology might have scared off many readers, but I do hope that some future book about Amazon will give more than tantalizing glimpses of the interplay between the software architecture of a large-scale web enterprise like Amazon and the human and organizational architecture that makes it possible for that software to be deployed in as agile a way as possible.
I highly recommend this book. Amazon is one of the most important companies in the 21st century economy, and anyone whose business has been or will be touched by Amazon should be sure to read it.
I do hope that one day there will be a biography of Jeff Bezos as comprehensive as Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs, but until then, this will have to do. Like Inside Steve's Brain, it gives tantalizing glimpses and lessons from the work of a great inventor, entrepreneur, and business leader.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is perfect for a specific group of people: job-seekers.
If you're currently looking for work, pick up a copy of this book, as it does convey a very important message. That is, never work at Amazon. And no, that message is not just for prospective employees who are thinking of braving the Jungle-esque conditions of the distribution centers. The message is for anyone thinking of joining any part of the company: never work at Amazon.
If you're not from the Pacific Northwest and haven't heard the horror stories from former employees of the biggest churn 'em and burn 'em since Brown's slaughterhouse (complete with 16-hour stints at the office and 108 social media posts in 20 days), The Everything Store should offer up more than a few hints about daily life at the company: a "breakneck pace of ...work," where "meetings [are called] over the weekends," and employees are expected to "work smart, hard, and long." UGH. And don't expect to inquire about a better work-life balance; someone already asked about that at a sales meeting, and Bezos responded that "if you can't excel and put everything into it, Amazon might not be the place for you."
Heh. I guess it's not the place for people who have lives in general. Moving on.
Then there's Bezos himself (who I used to liken to Steve Jobs, but smarter), the guy who reinvented the way we read and continues to drive a Civic despite having more money than God. Perhaps I harbored a secret fantasy or two about seducing him for an Amazon log-in, but... never mind. The book makes him out to be an evil genius type, and really, that's probably not too far off the mark. Christ, if he gained a few pounds and carried a cat, he'd look like Dr. Evil, too.
What's with Bezos, anyway? He owns Google and Amazon stock, so he can't be about the money. The book basically explains that Bezos, like most hyper-successful entrepreneurs, is one of those powerful types that loves working and only cares about winning. Those quoted in the book describe him as "impetuous and controlling" and "deranged," with "ice water run[nig] through his veins." Let's not forget that he has a history of "lashing out at executives who failed to meet his improbably high standards." Wow. Sounds like a blissful place to spend 8+ hours a day, especially with pressure like that coming from the top down.
Again, if you're job-searching, this is a great book to read for learning just why you should never work at Amazon. Then again, you don't need the book for that: just read the reviews on Glassdoor by former employees. Better yet, ask around Seattle a little: you'll learn that the average Amazon employee turnover is 6-9 months, and you'll hear tales about people who worked so much and had so little free time that the only way to get personal items—you know, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant?—was to order them from Amazon...and have them delivered to their desk...at Amazon.
But I digress. For those of us not looking for work, what about the book? My guess is if you have a day job filled with meetings, sales reports, executives, and the latest from Wall Street, the last thing you want to unwind with after a hard day's work is a book about meetings, sales reports, executives, and the latest from Wall Street.
Decent read, but I just couldn't handle it.
Meh -- whatever.
***I do wonder how long my review will last on Goodreads now that Amazon owns the site. In my defense, I'd like to state that I downloaded my copy of the book from Amazon, I've followed the new rules regarding book reviews, and I'm still totally open to seducing Bezos in exchange for an Amazon log-in. Love ya, Jeff!***
Deservedly winner of the Financial Times & Goldman Sachs' Business Book of the Year 2013, this the story taking from multiple verified sources of the life of Jeff Bezos, obviously focusing on a blow by blow account of the conception, birth, ups and downs and now modern dominance of the 'everything store' Amazon. This is not so much a commentary, but more a historical record of the why, what, how and when of Amazon; it doesn't veer away from the multiple controversies and neither does it hide from the legal, but harsh business practices used to grow.
This is the book to read if you want to know the truth about Amazon and Jeff Bezos, warts and all. Me? I suppose I am on the fence, in a world of multiple far-right-ish moguls like the Kochs and Murdochs and anti-tax billionaire 'clubs' like the 'Club for Growth', I'm extremely sceptical on the over the top derision landed on the likes of Bezos, Dorsey, Gates etc. It feels like that certain parts of Western society are extremely angry that there's a new group of billionaire's who like making money but don't hate the poor, minorities, gays etc... in my opinion.
Digression alert! Sorry, I felt that some context was needed. I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. It totally engrossed me. I just love the reality of all those know-it-alls telling Bezos you can't do this, and you can't do that, yet him doing it, and doing it well. For me this is a disruptor bible! People want you do things 'the way we've always done' because they already have you beat, that's why they don't really encourage innovation, especially amongst the non-franchised. I really enjoyed this read. 9 out of 12.
I confess: I read this book on my Kindle — my eighth Kindle, no less! — and of course I bought the book from Amazon.com. As I have practically every other book I’ve read over the past eight or ten years. And I have to admit that I’ve bought lots of other stuff from the company over the years, including some really expensive items. Not so much because of the low prices, though I hardly object to them, as because of One-Click ordering, Amazon Prime, and the exceptionally good customer service
So, why do I carry with me like a massive weight on my shoulders a festering hatred for the company and for the pile-driving founder who has built it into the behemoth it is today?
Read Brad Stone’s revealing book, The Everything Store, and you’ll understand perfectly why that weight on my shoulders is so heavy.
Take Amazon’s employees, for example. Not only does Jeff Bezos have a long history of verbal abuse directed at his employees — including senior executives who work closely with him — but he treats as a matter of principle denying them such modest benefits as free snacks and full reimbursement for using public transportation that are common in so many other large companies. In other words, he’s a skinflint. Bezos uses the excuse that he’s saving money to be able to offer customers the lowest possible prices. Somehow, though, his personal wealth keeps climbing. It’s now at $27 billion, according to Forbes. You’d think maybe he could afford to show a little appreciation for the people working for him.
Then there are the suppliers. You know about book publishers, of course. You’ve probably seen your own neighborhood bookstore go out of business in recent years. Amazon wasn’t the sole cause, but it’s right up there at the top of the list. But it’s not just book publishers that Bezos treats with contempt. Stone includes an eye-opening account of the troubled relationship between Amazon and the prestigious German knife manufacturer, Wusthof. In order to gain access to Amazon’s seemingly unlimited customer base, the German firm is forced to run the risk that it will be put out of business by Amazon’s ugly habit of promoting cut-price suppliers of its own products. Why? Apparently because Jeff Bezos acts as though his libertarian creed requires him to defy not just any government-imposed limitations but rules or customs adopted by anyone else at all.
No doubt Jeff Bezos loves his wife and kids and is affectionate toward furry little animals as well. Maybe his close friends even like him. But both his reputation and Brad Stone’s deeply researched account suggest that he is a thoroughly despicable CEO.
Brad Stone follows the leading technology companies for Bloomberg Businessweek. The Everything Store is his second book.
انتهي من الكتاب وستعرف الفرق بين من يعمل ومن لا يعمل. الكتاب: سيرة ذاتية لجيف بيزوس الذي أسس الشركة العملاقة الأكثر أثرًا على القطاعات التجارية: أمازون. كلما قرأت أكثر عن بيزوس خيل إلي فرعون وهو يبني الأهرامات. وحقيقةً بعد قراءتي لما أنجزه، تعجّبت للتركيز \ التسليط الإعلامي الذي حظي به ستيف جوبز (مؤسس آبل)، برغم أن أثر وإنجاز بيزوس يعتبر أكبر بمراحل. (بالطبع رجل الأعمال الذي يقف على رأس الثوريين في هو إيلون مسك مؤسس تسلا وسبيس إكس). استطاع بيزوس أن يقلب عدّة قطاعات رأسًا على عقب كقطاع النشر، استضافة المواقع وخدماتها، البيع بالتجزئة، الشحن والتوصيل. بعض الدروس \ الملاحظات: • الصفة التي يمتاز بها بيزوس في نظري: قدرته على سرعة فهم المحرّكات الرئيسة للقطاعات التجارية وإعادة ابتكارها. • مبدأ بيزوس المحوري هو تحويل كل دولار من المصاريف "الزايدة" –مثل التسويق- إلى تحسين الخدمة وتجربة المستخدم. وأهم خدمة يمكن تقديمها للمستخدم بالنسبة له: تقليل الأسعار. لذلك تجد أن أمازون خصوصا في السنوات الأولى لا تصرف كثيرًا على التسويق (مقارنةً بالشركات الأخرى) • جعلني الكتاب أشكك في مبدأ أقرأه مرارًا: "لا بد من إسعاد موظّفيك حتى تنجح المنظّمة". بيزوس يسيء معاملة موظّفيه دائمًا، يشغلهم عدد الساعات طويلة جدًا، فضلاً عن الرواتب والمزايا الـ"عادية" (مرتفعة لكن ليست مجنونة). كل ما يفعله بيزوس يبرره بـأنه "يصرف كل دولار وفّره لتحسين تجربة العميل" • لم يكتفِ بيزوس بقتل موظّفيه، لكنه قتل العديد من المزودين (suppliers)، سواءً دور النشر أو البائعين على موقع أمازون. أمازون تسمح لقطاع معين البيع على موقعه، لكن بعد فترة بسيطة من تحليل المنتج وتصرف العملاء، يقوم هو بطرح نفس المنتج بسعر أقل ويقتل البائعين على موقعه. • هذه ظاهرة جيدة للمستفيد \ العميل... تخفيض الأسعار وإخراج المنافسين...لكن ماذا عن المدى البعيد؟ ماذا سيحدث إن بقيت أمازون وحيدة؟ وقتها سنكون تحت رحمتهم، أليس كذلك؟ • من أهم ما يميز أمازون: البيانات البيانات البيانات. يجعونها ويحللونها بتطرّف. وهذا يشرح الكثير. الكتاب جيد بعمومه، وقراته ممتعة، لكن وجدت صعوبة في استخلاص أهم الدروس نظرًا للطريقة السردية التي طبّقها الكاتب
I placed my first book order at Amazon in 1999. I was living in Ann Arbor at the time, within walking distance of the flagship Borders store. Because new books were expensive, I mostly shopped at a used book store down the street instead. The selection was unpredictable, but I loved browsing their overflowing shelves and finding titles that were harder to track down, either because they were old or out of print.
Amazon's selection certainly wowed me, and there were times that I did want a new book instead of one with a faded cover and cracked spine. Their prices on new books were significantly cheaper than Borders, ordering was easy, and shipping was reliable. Back then, putting your credit card info into a website still felt risky. Would you ever get what you paid for? There wasn't a strong precedence yet. (I remember a friend describing Netflix to me and actually saying something like, "I wouldn't trust that. Sounds like a rip-off." Of course we joined a few years later when it took off.) But, Amazon always delivered. Although I still bought quite a few used books, whenever I needed new ones, Amazon became my go-to source.
Some of my other early transactions with Amazon (which I can still view on the site!) were in the form of gift cards for family members. This remains a staple in my family's gift-giving even today. In fact, if money is passed along for anything, an Amazon gift certificate is preferable to a personal check, because we all spend money at Amazon so regularly. We are Kindle users and Prime members. In shopping online, Amazon's prices, selection, and convenience are unbeatable.
So, given my long history with Amazon, I really loved the first half of this book. It was fascinating to learn how all their services came about, what inspired them, and how Bezos's insistence that the customer experience always came first (even if it meant temporary company losses) informed all his decisions. Amazon molded my expectations when it comes to dealing with internet retail. (Seriously, I recently bought some gift cards for a family member from another site and was so surprised that I couldn't choose the date of delivery of an e-mail gift card!)
Of course even in those early days of Amazon, when they were the underdogs working tirelessly in the name of the consumer experience, there was some ugliness. Amazon has never sounded like a pleasant place to work, whether you were in the boardroom or the warehouse. Work/family balance was frowned upon and the business trumped personal relationships in every instance. The stories of Bezos's strategies for dealing with other businesses were eye-opening, as well. The more successful Amazon became and the more capital it had to play with, the more aggressive its tactics. In recent years, it has been tantamount to bullying.
These tactics are not unique to Amazon. We all like small businesses until they become big businesses, and it's partly because we know what it takes to get there (and stay there). Low prices at high volume are simply not sustainable for mom-and-pop brick and mortar stores. And then there's the issue of keeping up with the changing times and desires of the customers. This was the nail in Borders' coffin, and in a way, Amazon did to Borders what Borders did to a lot of the smaller booksellers. (Happily, my favorite used book store still remains in business right down the street from the now defunct Borders flagship store. I do miss Borders as a presence, though I admit I bought from them rarely.)
Amazon has tried hard to seem cool in all this, but as they work toward Bezos's dream of becoming the one-stop shop for absolutely everything, dipping their finger into every pot, it gets more difficult to root for them. With everyone, it seems they'll eventually hit a sore spot. For me, it was the acquisition of Goodreads. At first, I assumed they'd done so because books were the core of Amazon from the beginning, yet the reviews over there are pretty much a joke. I don't trust them, I don't read them. They are pointless.
After reading this book, however, I get the impression the Goodreads acquisition was less about the reviews themselves and more about the data, which can be applied directly to their recommendation algorithms. Those algorithms are Amazon's bread and butter. They're using your book ratings right now to make those "if you bought X, maybe you'd like Y" recommendations, promoting impulse buys and offering gift suggestions. Such algorithms (also based on past purchases and searches at Amazon) are incredibly powerful, and Amazon has even tweaked them artificially to leverage deals with suppliers. If someone wasn't playing ball, Amazon altered the algorithm so the supplier's products no longer came up, and some felt a sales loss of 40%. Of course Amazon lost some money, too, but they weren't losing their shirts the way the suppliers were. Ultimately, in that game, Amazon always wins.
I know I'm contributing to the problem. Low prices, convenience, and the perception of a personal touch due to their targeted marketing... it all somehow keeps me there. All the money I've ever given them helped them buy GoodReads, and now my reviews are helping them, too. For some reason, I don't hate them enough to stop. And, at what cost to the retail world, book publishing, and everything else that Amazon takes on? In considering that, this book made me feel a bit dirty, but I do think it's better to know. If you're a diehard fan of Amazon, you may not enjoy the last third of this book very much. If you're already on the fence, you may never shop there again.
But, that's not why I docked it a star. It's a minor point, but this book did something I dislike in nonfic when authors are trying to generate suspense. They offer a tantalizing teaser at the beginning of a chapter, followed by tangentially connected thing that I don't care about, and then finally conclude with the good stuff I really wanted to read. I don't think this narrative manipulation is necessary, but I see it often in books like this.
Despite those lulls, I thought this was an interesting and evenhanded look at Amazon's history, from inception to today. I honestly didn't think I could find a book about business so interesting. Just ask my husband -- I couldn't STFU about this one while I was reading it. I can't wait until he gets home so I can tell him I finished it. (Hi, honey!)
I really want to read this. I'm not kidding; this is not a protest review, or a thinly veiled taunt for deletion so as to provide fodder for the Hydra. That ship has sailed for me, and I find myself today starting to contemplate my own next steps vis-a-vis my increasingly tenuous participation on this site. And yet here I still am.
I want to understand what is happening, and why, to the goodreads that I love. There are not too many (are there?) who would disagree that a key, if not the key, is in its new relationship with amazon.
Understanding amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, would appear to be a good place to start; a thought reinforced in this review from LinkedIn, which prompted my putting this on the TBR pile.
Frankly, he sounds like every other tech start-up entrepreneur: a world-class douche, with zero people skills and no concept of the value or importance of community or collaboration. This is not an attack - read the review for yourself; I'm just paraphrasing.
I'm sick of people like him being described as visionary geniuses. Maybe they are - but I think all that vision and genius turned to the single goal of making money for the founder and the shareholders, while running roughshod over everyone - and everything - that gets in the way is ultimately destructive. It's unethical, it's repugnant, it betrays a fundamental devotion to greed and power that trumps human decency. And it's being played out in the current situation on goodreads as its community is being dismantled in favour of commercial, over social, goals.
Well. I guess I will know more if/when I read this.
This is the story of Amazon.com and how it became a ~$500B company. The book is fun and engaging to read. The chapters focus on painting a picture of Jeff Bezos and his philosophy, and the various adversities that the company has faced over its 20 years of existence. I am generally not a huge fan of worship-fiction (which is very common when it comes to books about "visionary founders"), but luckily this book is only about 50% that. The other 50% is a genuinely fun read about Amazon's beginnings, struggles, and its now-sprawling empire from a high-level business perspective. My favorite parts included:
1) the clear-headed analysis that went into the original spark behind Amazon, 2) the repeating pattern of the "flywheel" positive feedback loops that was the energy source of Amazon's growth, 3) the amusing inability of the incumbents to realize what was happening and how to address it, and finally 4) the anecdotes related to all of the above.
good/fun read. Would recommend to anyone interested in the history of internet and the dot com bubble and general high-level business strategy grounded in the examples from Amazon's history.
Amazon is both “missionary and mercenary” and is a line from Brad Stone, the author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. That to me sums this book up.
Given recent events, aka Hachette-Amazon, it’s required reading for anyone involved in the publishing industry. I think Amazon customers should also read it.
Also, I suggest reading the reviews written by some of the people mentioned in the book, including Mr. Bezos wife. But only after reading the book.
I’m a bit surprised at the negative reaction from some of these people because I didn’t think the book was a smear job on either Bezos or the company he started and still runs. It lays out a business template of someone driven to success.
My take on Bezos from this book (which might totally be wrong, I’m sure his wife knows him better): he wants to win. It’s not about making money (although I’m sure he doesn’t complain) but about winning.
I’m a fan of Amazon simply because eBooks resurrected my writing career after traditional publishing said it was over. I tell writers it’s the best time ever to be an author. I’ve been able to re-publish my extensive backlist and get it to writers and Amazon facilitates that. I was recently able to publish a free Sneak Peak containing excerpts and author notes from 42 of my books and make it live on Amazon (and other platforms). What bookstore or publisher would do that?
Also, every interaction I’ve had with Amazon employees (including a day long visit in January) has been positive. They view authors as customers too, which is key.
That said, after reading this book, I also cast a leery eye at the future and make plans in case Bezos winning comes at the cost to me and my career.
The professional Jeff Bezos (pronounced BAY-zohs not BEE-zohs) is a hard-ass, bad-ass, or a superlative-free just plain ass. I’m not judging, just sayin’. It’s all perspective. If you are an employee or competitor, watch out. If you are a customer, you can count on an advocate with an obsession for customer service and getting the lowest prices anywhere.
Like today’s political environment, my impression of Amazon (no longer Amazon.com) is that it is polarized—people either love or hate the company. I have noticed little middle ground opinions. Count me as an “I ♥ Amazon”-er. I like the low prices and I respect their passion for customer service. I know how difficult customer service can be and with so few companies doing it right these days, I admire those that do it well.
I know that the fanatical degree with which Amazon pursues low prices is controversial but that’s what consumers today demand. This has forced companies to become more efficient and cost conscious. In turn, has resulted in the outsourcing of jobs to countries with lower labor costs. People claim to want to buy American (or local) but nobody wants to pay more for it. As a result, it becomes a vicious cycle with Amazon essentially incorporating the Borg mentality that all (competitors) will be assimilated—two of my favorite companies among them, Audible and Goodreads. Full disclosure: As a former Audible and Amazon investor, I have benefited both financially and from a customer service perspective from these companies.
The cover of this book is actually a pretty good visual summary of what you find inside: a great look at Amazon and Jeff Bezos but with the real man (frustratingly) only coming through in part. While Jeff Bezos gave his support to the book, he didn't participate in the way that Steve Jobs did with Walter Isaacson's book. And it shows. So, for that reason, the book doesn't accomplish its goal of being "the definitive book" of Amazon.
Also, I found the book jumped around a lot so I'd sometimes wonder which year I was in as I read a story and would have to flip back to figure it out. I didn't help with this as I would get to bits where the story was moving more slowly and I would start jumping ahead looking for more interesting details.
With that said, it's still a fascinating read. Thanks to the fact that Brad Stone has covered Amazon as a reporter for fifteen years, he not only has long-term knowledge but also clearly a huge network of contacts. The anecdotes and personal comments really bring the story alive. I also really loved learning about how so many of the company values and traditions came about. Reading about the huge goals the Amazon team set themselves and how they failed and overcame failure or learned from it to succeed elsewhere reminded you of how far the company has come.
I think anyone reading this will come away with a list of ideas to explore/start practicing. I certainly did. And if the content of the book is not enough then there's a handy list of books in the Appendix called "Jeff's Reading List." "Books have nurtured Amazon since its creation and shaped its culture and strategy," writes Stone. He then lists a dozen books "widely read by executives and employees that are integral to understanding the company" including The Remains of the Day, The Innovator's Dilemma and The Black Swan.
Обичам бизнес книгите. Особено тези, които обещават да ми разкажат едновременно за два мои любими и на пръв поглед почти несъвместими свята – на технологичните компании и на книгоиздаването, каквато се оказа „Джеф Безос и векът на Amazon“. Тук е моментът да си призная, че не ползвам Amazon (моите предпочитани онлайн платформи за пазаруване са eBay и Etsy) и не бях достатъчно добре запозната с историята на нейния основател.
Ще започна с приликите, които веднага изскачат в съзнанието на читателя, когато стане дума за големите предприемачи от зората на онлайн бизнеса – Джеф Безос е безумно амбициозен, притежава избухлив характер, който всява страх сред редици негови подчинени, перфекционист и работохолик, който открито не зачита широко установения принцип за баланс между работа и личен живот и често предприема бизнес ходове, които в дадения момент изглеждат почти безумни, но в дългосрочен план се оказват крайно далновидни. Виждате вече образите на Стив Джобс, Илон Мъск и Бил Гейтс, нали? Е, Безос перфектно пасва на психологическия профил на този технологичен клуб, само че не е толкова популярен, нито особено обичан.
Reading about start-ups and founders is part of the cultural education of our era. Even if you are not interested in the business side of things, these books are still required reading since you have to study the idols and the paragons of society to understand the aspirations and the class definitions. Jeff Bezos is right up there with the other founder-luminaries as an aspirational, charismatic goalpost to reach towards. Starting something of your own is easily the most self-fulfilling goal allowed today. Forget the find-yourself goals of a few decades back, it is the start-something goal that is the best option today... Is it a compromise? Does it make a real difference in the quality of life? No founder is ever going to burst that bubble, at least not yet. :)
Anyway, coming to the genre itself, it is part of the reading of this genre that along with the more esoteric reading of such books to understand society, culture, etc., the more relevant reading is to look for "mantras of success", for habits that will lead to success, for methods that will work, for any superstitious tic that might just bring about the next big thing.
But one common thread I have been able to tease out from readings about the colossally successful is that all of them are obsessive about at least one of the following aspects:
1. Obsessive about the Customers Such founders are on a mission to "help" customers who are currently not getting what they deserve. They truly believe that their mission is to wage war for the consumers, to make things easy for them, and make money in the process. Jeff Bezos belongs to this category.
2. Obsessive about the Employees All founders know that the top employees are important, but this category of founders obsess right down to the level of the front-line employees. It is a family mentality at work here. They believe that the best way to retain and motivate is to genuinely care about the employees. The best among these are able to make every employee feel like an owner and work like an owner.
3. Obsessive about the Product These guys are out to create the best that ever was. They need to know that at all times their product is the best out there. Nothing less will suffice.
Any founder who doesn't fall into one of these categories would tend to gravitate towards the efficiency-driven, measurement-driven, mundane process of driving the bottom-line. But without a clear understanding of the Why and the How of bottom-line pushing, this never works out in the end. Every great company needs a great focus, and only these few seem epic enough to create the colossally successful.
I wish the book had been a bit more critical of Bezos and Amazon, but it was still really interesting to read about the development of Amazon and how it differs from the other tech companies. For one, Bezos was a finance guy--not a tech guy. I did not realize that.
Also, what's fascinating to me is that both Bezos and Musk just really really badly want humanity to go to Mars. Like if that's the goal, of course you have to take over the world first. Good luck with that guys.
The Everything Store by Brad Stone talks about e-commerce by chronicling the story of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. Bezos once was named the top technology CEO in the US and as you might guess there is a lot of knowledge to learn from the reading. The book describes how Amazon was run at the beginning, how it went through the dot-com bubble in the 2000s when a lot of internet companies went bankrupt and, of course how it has evolved into one of the biggest and well-respected e-stores and not only that. The book is not only about selling books, music, electronics and AWS (Amazon Web Services). More importantly, it depicts how Jeff Bezos made it all happen, not by thinking about the short term share price, but persistent delivery of his long-term promises and goals.
Anyway, I’m not going to write here about the history of Amazon, but I’ll focus on a few major takeaways from Jeff Bezos:
1. Don’t shy away from temporary losses in they bring a long-term advantage. For instance, when Kindle was introduced Amazon was selling books with loss just to create a market for its device. 2. Decentralisation and independent decision-making are better as people closest to the problem usually are in the best position to solve it. Coordination is a waste of time. 3. Focus on e-commerce over traditional businesses as it offers many more advantages, such as recommendations which pop up based on previous shopping behaviour. This is one of the most important pillars of Amazon’s business model. Amazon’s AI propose relevant products to their customers which they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. 4. You can work long, you can work hard, you can works smart, but at Amazon, you can’t choose two out of three. 5. A new product has to be presented in the form of a press release. The goal of this is to frame the product initiative in a way a customer might hear about it the first time. 6. Take every possibility you can to learn something. Learn from every person you know 7. Teams at Amazon have usually fewer than ten members, following the two-pizza rule. A team shouldn’t have more employees than could be fed with two pizzas. Bezos believes that smaller teams are more productive and are often use to tackle issues independently. They often compete with each for resources. 8. Meetings should be extremely data-driven. People should always support their thesis with hard data which leads to unambiguous decisions. 9. Customer satisfaction should be your most priority to focus on. It should lead to the continual development of new features in e-commerce that traditional...(if you like to read my full review please visit my blog https://leadersarereaders.blog/the-ev...)
If you enjoy business books, the Everything Store is perfect. An online bookstore headquartered in a Washington garage in 1994 is now considered by many to be the most innovative company in the world. The Everything Store perfectly encapsulates the culture that Jeff Bezos wanted and the journey through some of the brightest innovations all derived from the Amazon Mission: be earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online. As much as this book gives a historical overview it also informs, by highlighting the key principles that guide the entire organization and these principles can also be applied to other organizations. For example, a relentless focus on the Customer by all employees drives the mission forward and that in parallel with long-term thinking at the crossroads of all decision-making fosters BIG thinking that delights the customer and that is one of the foundational elements to how Amazon became the "Everything Store" - this is also what will inspire future selection that many can't imagine possible. Brad Stone could not have been more precise in painting the picture of Amazon's journey and guiding light while giving readers a framework for what the future holds for Bezos and the entire Amazon ecosystem.
There's an art to writing the business biography. This one couldn't figure out whether it was the Bezos story or the Amazon story, even though the two are intertwined, and didn't do an entirely perfect job of either. Amazon's very early startup days were short on detail, whereas the more proximal later ultra-competitive years were well described. Bezos's personality is explored but not charted. A book that opens as many questions as it answers.
What it does paint, though, is fascinating. Jeff Bezos as driven over-achiever. Amazon as dysfunctional incarnation of Jeff's own personality.
An hilarious fail: Sony Electronics explored the possibility of using Amazon to bring its Sony Style chain online. As part of the discussions, Howard Stringer, chief of Sony Corporation of America, toured the Amazon fulfillment center in Fernley and, in a memorable moment, encountered on the warehouse floor a pile of Sony merchandise, which Amazon was technically not supposed to be selling. Stringer and his colleagues started examining the labels and writing down product numbers in an attempt to determine where the merchandise had come from. That deal didn’t happen either.
On the Amazon values and culture:
They agreed on five core values and wrote them down on a whiteboard in a conference room: customer obsession, frugality, bias for action, ownership, and high bar for talent. Later Amazon would add a sixth value, innovation.
At least one anointed bar raiser would participate in every interview process and would have the power to veto a candidate who did not meet the goal of raising the company’s overall hiring bar. Even the hiring manager was unable to override a bar raiser’s veto. “Many companies as they grow begin to compromise their standards in order to fill their resource needs,” says Dalzell. “We wanted to make sure that did not happen at Amazon.”
At the same time, rising investor skepticism and the pleadings of nervous senior executives finally convinced Bezos to shift gears. Instead of Get Big Fast, the company adopted a new operating mantra: Get Our House in Order. The watchwords were discipline, efficiency, and eliminating waste.
When both teams met for the first time, Bezos made a big show of keeping one chair open at the conference-room table, “for the customer,” he explained.
Jeff slammed his hand on the table and said, ‘That is not how an owner thinks!'
Amazon executives reasoned that day that they had the Internet’s most authoritative product catalog and that they should exploit it. That, it turned out, was the central insight that not only turned Amazon into a thriving platform for small online merchants but powers a good deal of its success today.
“Jeff was super clear from the beginning,” says Neil Roseman. “If somebody else can sell it cheaper than us, we should let them and figure out how they are able to do it.”
“There are two kinds of retailers: there are those folks who work to figure how to charge more, and there are companies that work to figure how to charge less, and we are going to be the second, full-stop,”
Bezos learned a lot from Walmart. Scott also talked about how Walmart viewed advertising and pricing as two ends on the same spectrum. “We spend only forty basis points on marketing. Go look at our shareholder statement,” he said. “Most of that goes to newspapers to inform people about what is in our stores. The rest of our marketing dollars we pour into reducing prices. Our marketing strategy is our pricing strategy, which is everyday low pricing.”
“You can fill Safeco Field with the people that don’t want to sell to us,” Sinegal said. “But over a period of time, we generate enough business and prove we are a good customer and pay our bills and keep our promises. Then they say, ‘Why the hell am I not doing business with these guys. I gotta be stupid. They are a great form of distribution.’
“My approach has always been that value trumps everything,” Sinegal continued. “The reason people are prepared to come to our strange places to shop is that we have value. We deliver on that value constantly. There are no annuities in this business.”
The entire company, he said, would restructure itself around what he called “two-pizza teams.” Employees would be organized into autonomous groups of fewer than ten people—small enough that, when working late, the team members could be fed with two pizza pies. These teams would be independently set loose on Amazon’s biggest problems. They would likely compete with one another for resources and sometimes duplicate their efforts, replicating the Darwinian realities of surviving in nature. Freed from the constraints of intracompany communication, Bezos hoped, these loosely coupled teams could move faster and get features to customers quicker. Each team would propose its own “fitness function”—a linear equation that it could use to measure its own impact without ambiguity. For example, a two-pizza team in charge of sending advertising e-mails to customers might choose for its fitness function the rate at which these messages were opened multiplied by the average order size those e-mails generated. A group writing software code for the fulfillment centers might home in on decreasing the cost of shipping each type of product and reducing the time that elapsed between a customer’s making a purchase and the item leaving the FC in a truck. Bezos wanted to personally approve each equation and track the results over time. It would be his way of guiding a team’s evolution. The result was somewhat disappointing. The two-pizza-team concept took root first in engineering, where it was backed by Rick Dalzell, and over the course of several years, it was somewhat inconsistently applied through the rest of the company. There was just no reason to organize some departments, such as legal and finance, in this way.
As part of his ongoing quest for a better allocation of his own time, he decreed that he would no longer have one-on-one meetings with his subordinates. These meetings tended to be filled with trivial updates and political distractions, rather than problem solving and brainstorming. Even today, Bezos rarely meets alone with an individual colleague.
“PowerPoint is a very imprecise communication mechanism,” says Jeff Holden, Bezos’s former D. E. Shaw colleague, who by that point had joined the S Team. “It is fantastically easy to hide between bullet points. You are never forced to express your thoughts completely.” Bezos announced that employees could no longer use such corporate crutches and would have to write their presentations in prose, in what he called narratives. The S Team debated with him over the wisdom of scrapping PowerPoint but Bezos insisted. He wanted people thinking deeply and taking the time to express their thoughts cogently.
Japanese consultants occasionally came to work with Amazon, and they were so unimpressed and derogatory that Amazon employees gave them a nickname: the insultants.
Perhaps the best story stems from the busy holiday season of 2006. A temporary employee in the Coffeyville, Kansas, fulfillment center showed up at the start of his shift and left at the end of it, but strangely, he was not logging any actual work in the hours in between. Amazon’s time clocks were not yet linked to the system that tracked productivity, so the discrepancy went unnoticed for at least a week. Finally someone uncovered the scheme. The worker had surreptitiously tunneled out a cavern inside an eight-foot-tall pile of empty wooden pallets in a far corner of the fulfillment center. Inside, completely blocked from view, he had created a cozy den.
But it's not all smiling HBR quotables. During one memorable meeting, a female employee pointedly asked Bezos when Amazon was going to establish a better work-life balance. He didn’t take that well. “The reason we are here is to get stuff done, that is the top priority,” he answered bluntly. “That is the DNA of Amazon. If you can’t excel and put everything into it, this might not be the place for you.”
“There can be only one head of marketing at Amazon, and his name is Jeff,”
“If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you’re good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground.”
“I spent most of my time trying to hide from Bezos,” Pinkham says. “He was a fun guy to talk to but you did not want to be his pet project. He would love it to distraction.”
For the launch of Simple Storage Service, Atlas had commemorative T-shirts made up for his colleagues; he used the design of Superman’s costume but with an S3 rather than an S on the chest. Naturally, he had to pay for the shirts himself.
Bezos never despaired over the mass exodus. One of his gifts, his colleagues said, was being able to drive and motivate his employees without getting overly attached to them personally.
Bezos did not explicitly favor one group over the other, but he looked at the results of tests. Over time it became clear that the humans couldn’t compete. PEOPLE FORGET THAT JOHN HENRY DIED IN THE END, read a sign on the wall of the P13N [Personalisation] office.
“Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”
Google and Microsoft, which spread out their stock grants evenly, Amazon backloads the grant toward the end of the four-year period. Employees typically get 5 percent of their shares at the end of their first year, 15 percent their second year, and then 20 percent every six months over the final two years. Ensuing grants vest over two years and are also backloaded, to ensure that employees keep working hard and are never inclined to coast. Managers in departments of fifty people or more are required to “top-grade” their subordinates along a curve and must dismiss the least effective performers. As a result of this ongoing examination, many Amazon employees live in perpetual fear. A common experience among Amazon workers is a feeling of genuine surprise when one receives a good performance review.
At a management offsite in the late 1990s, a team of well-intentioned junior executives stood up before the company’s top brass and gave a presentation on a problem indigenous to all large organizations: the difficulty of coordinating far-flung divisions. The junior executives recommended a variety of different techniques to foster cross-group dialogue and afterward seemed proud of their own ingenuity. Then Jeff Bezos, his face red and the blood vessel in his forehead pulsing, spoke up. “I understand what you’re saying, but you are completely wrong,” he said. “Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.”
At that meeting and in public speeches afterward, Bezos vowed to run Amazon with an emphasis on decentralization and independent decision-making. “A hierarchy isn’t responsive enough to change,” he said. “I’m still trying to get people to do occasionally what I ask. And if I was successful, maybe we wouldn’t have the right kind of company.”
Bezos’s counterintuitive point was that coordination among employees wasted time, and that the people closest to problems were usually in the best position to solve them.
Or, as Neil Roseman also put it: “Autonomous working units are good. Things to manage working units are bad.”
The deals and negotiations and business strategies are equally fascinating. Wilke started his negotiations with UPS that summer in Louisville, ahead of a September 1 contract deadline. When UPS was predictably obstinate about deviating from its standard rate card, Wilke threatened to walk. UPS officials thought he was bluffing. Wilke called Jones in Seattle and said, “Bruce, turn them off.” “In twelve hours, they went from millions of pieces [from Amazon] a day to a couple a day,” says Jones, who flew to Fernley to watch the fallout. The standoff lasted seventy-two hours and went unnoticed by customers and other outsiders.
The Amazon jewelry executives decided on an approach similar to the one the company had recently used for its cautious first foray into apparel. They would let other, more experienced retailers sell everything on the site via Amazon’s Marketplace, and Amazon would take a commission. Meanwhile, the company could watch and learn. “That was something we did quite well,” says Randy Miller. “If you don’t know anything about the business, launch it through the Marketplace, bring retailers in, watch what they do and what they sell, understand it, and then get into it.”
Amazon devised one of the Web’s first automated search-ad-buying systems, naming it Urubamba, after a river in Peru, a tributary of the Amazon. But Bezos was wary of helping Google develop tools that it might then extend to Amazon’s rivals. “Treat Google like a mountain. You can climb the mountain, but you can’t move it,” he told Blake Scholl, the young developer in charge of Urubamba. “Use them, but don’t make them smarter.”
the institutional no, by which he meant any and all signs of internal resistance to these unorthodox moves. Even strong companies, he said, tended to reflexively push back against moves in unusual directions. At quarterly board meetings, he asked each director to share an example of the institutional no from his or her own past. Bezos was preparing his overseers to approve what would be a series of improbable, expensive, and risky bets. He simply refused to accept Amazon’s fate as an unexciting and marginally profitable online retailer. “There’s only one way out of this predicament,” he said repeatedly to employees during this time, “and that is to invent our way out.”
"You have to start somewhere,” he said. “You climb the top of the first tiny hill and from there you see the next hill.”
Amazon keeps AWS’s financial performance and profitability a secret, analysts at Morgan Stanley estimate that in 2012, it brought in $2.2 billion in revenue.
As Bezos proclaimed at the time, according to numerous employees: “Developers are alchemists and our job is to do everything we can to get them to do their alchemy.”
Bezos directed groups of engineers in brainstorming possible primitives. Storage, bandwidth, messaging, payments, and processing all made the list. In an informal way—as if the company didn’t quite know the insight around primitives was an extraordinary one—Amazon then started building teams to develop the services described on that list.
investment officer at Legg Mason Capital Management and a major Amazon shareholder, asked Bezos at the time about the profitability prospects for AWS. Bezos predicted they would be good over the long term but said that he didn’t want to repeat “Steve Jobs’s mistake” of pricing the iPhone in a way that was so fantastically profitable that the smartphone market became a magnet for competition.
Bezos unshackled Kessel from Amazon’s traditional media organization. “Your job is to kill your own business,” he told him. “I want you to proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.” Bezos underscored the urgency of the effort. He believed that if Amazon didn’t lead the world into the age of digital reading, then Apple or Google would. When Kessel asked Bezos what his deadline was on developing the company’s first piece of hardware, an electronic reading device, Bezos told him, “You are basically already late.”
The company had finally learned the tricks of the century-old trade that is modern retail. Profit margin is finite. Better financial terms with suppliers translate directly into a healthier bottom line—and create the foundation on which everyday low prices become possible.
The next few months were tense. Amazon’s inducements to publishers were followed by threats. Publishers that didn’t digitize enough of their catalogs, or didn’t do it fast enough, were told they faced losing their prominence in Amazon’s search results and in its recommendations to customers.
marveling at how Bezos had ruthlessly engineered another acquisition by driving his target off a cliff. Says one observer who had a seat close to the battle, “They have an absolute willingness to torch the landscape around them to emerge the winner.”
Manufacturers are not allowed to enforce retail prices for their products. But they can decide which retailers to sell to, and one way they wield that power is by setting price floors with a tool called MAP, or minimum advertised price. MAP requires offline retailers like Walmart to stay above a certain price threshold in their circulars and newspaper ads. Online retailers have a higher burden. Their product pages are considered advertisements, so they have to set their promoted prices at or above MAP or else face the manufacturer’s wrath and risk the firm’s limiting the number of products allocated or withdrawing them altogether. Like Sam Walton, Bezos sees it as his company’s mission to drive inefficiencies out of the supply chain and deliver the lowest possible price to its customers. Amazon executives view MAPs and similar techniques as the last vestiges of an old way of doing business, gimmicks that inefficient companies use to protect their bloated margins. Amazon has come up with countless workarounds, including a technique called hide the price. In some cases, when Amazon breaks MAP, it doesn’t list the price on its product page. A customer can see the low price only when he places the item in his shopping cart.
Some of the retailers who sell via the Amazon Marketplace seem to have a schizophrenic relationship with the company, particularly if they have no unique and sustainable selling point, such as an exclusive on a particular product. Amazon closely monitors what they sell, notices any briskly selling items, and often starts selling those products itself.
Amazon’s own employees have compared third-party selling on the site to heroin addiction—sellers get a sudden euphoric rush and a lingering high as sales explode, then progress to addiction and self-destruction when Amazon starts gutting the sellers’ margins and undercutting them on price.
introduced [...] the Prime Lending Library, which allowed Prime members who owned a Kindle reading device to borrow one digital book a month for free. But Amazon included the books of many mid-tier publishers in its lending catalog without asking for permission, reasoning that it had purchased those books at wholesale and thus believed it could set any retail price it wished (including, in this case, zero).
[reverse-engineering what makes cool companies] Rudeness is not cool. Defeating tiny guys is not cool. Close-following is not cool. Young is cool. Risk taking is cool. Winning is cool. Polite is cool. Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool. Inventing is cool. Explorers are cool. Conquerors are not cool. Obsessing over competitors is not cool. Empowering others is cool. Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool. Leadership is cool. Conviction is cool. Straightforwardness is cool. Pandering to the crowd is not cool. Hypocrisy is not cool. Authenticity is cool. Thinking big is cool. The unexpected is cool. Missionaries are cool. Mercenaries are not cool.
When you have fit yourself snugly into Jeff Bezos’s worldview and then evaluated both the success and failures of Amazon over the past two decades, the future of the company becomes easy to predict. The answer to almost every conceivable question is yes.
I was a bit skeptical about this book, as there have been accusations from MacKenzie Bezos (Jeff's wife) and others that the book contains numerous factual inaccuracies. The edition I read appears to have corrected some of these inaccuracies (e.g., MacKenzie objected to the assertion that Bezos read Remains of the Day before deciding to leave D.E. Shaw to start Amazon in order to minimize regret because Bezos didn't actually read the novel until a year after starting Amazon; in the edition I read, this assertion was deleted), though I suspect that such changes were minimal.
I can't say if the book is factually accurate -- like most works of nonfiction and journalism, there is no doubt that there are numerous points of fact on which the participants disagree and which the writer might have gotten wrong. It is also true that Stone is trying to tell a story about Amazon, and the narrative fallacy is something all readers must keep in mind. To Stone's credit, he explicitly notes that Bezos highlighted the narrative fallacy, and Stone acknowledges the danger and suggests that writers must nonetheless do the best they can to tell a story. Our species is wired for narratives, readers and writers and subjects alike, and I don't know if we can ever be free from their distorting effects.
On the whole, I came away with the impression that the book is sympathetic to Amazon and Bezos and tells a story that feels true in light of the evidence. Bezos is driven, smart, and like some hero out of an Ayn Rand novel, holds an abiding faith in creating value for customers, eliminating inefficiencies, and rewriting established rules to accomplish worthy goals. The story of the rise of Amazon is a good one: the dream of a retailer that sells everything the customer might want survived the dot com crash, the exodus of engineers and executive for "cooler" companies, the financial crisis, and Amazon emerged as one of the most powerful technology platform companies in the world (think AWS and all the companies that rely on it) as well as one of the greatest retailers in the world. Brad Stone argues that Amazon is an extension of Bezos the way Apple was/is an extension of Jobs, and Bezos is a missionary as well as a mercenary. When he talks about being customer-focused, he is 100% sincere. This assessment seems fair.
There were many things that I found fascinating about the Amazon Way as explained by Stone. One of the key factors in Amazon's success is Bezos's belief in the "flywheel" -- drawn from Jim Collins's Good to Great -- in which a virtuous cycle allows growth to beget more growth: lower prices led to more customer visits; more customers led to higher sales volume and more commission-paying third-party vendors selling on the site; Amazon then got more leverage out of its infrastructure and fixed costs (fulfillment centers, AWS) and could apply more pressure on suppliers to lower prices, so that it could lower prices further.
Amazon's self-interest and missionary zeal are aligned in offering the customer a bigger selection and lower prices -- these are the inputs to accelerate the flywheel. Keeping this principle in mind explains practically everything the company does. It is ruthless in its dealings with partners and suppliers and employees because only by squeezing them can Amazon offer lower prices to its customers and a better customer experience. In at least this sense, Amazon really is customer-centric: it believes that customers always want lower prices and greater selection, and whoever gets in the way of Amazon accomplishing these goals for its customers should be rightfully crushed.
In one key passage, Stone notes that the idea that in a business negotiation both sides should emerge happy is deeply "un-Amazon." Amazon does not care about its business partners and suppliers and it must emerge as the winner in any negotiation because only by winning can it pass on the savings to customers in the form of lower prices. Amazon is not in business to help its suppliers and partners succeed -- but to squeeze them and eliminate their inefficiencies so that customers can pay less. If this means Amazon must hide key deal terms from the suppliers (e.g., Amazon's intent to lose money on ebooks by pricing them low so as to drive down customer expectations and apply pressure on the publishers) or break the ethical norms of business negotiations (e.g., reopening negotiations after key terms have been completed to extract more concessions), then so be it.
The book publishers -- a group I'm sympathetic to, not the least because I'm publishing through a traditional publisher and I like the people I work with, who really are in business because they love books -- were blindsided by Amazon because that is just not how they think. You can view publishers as inefficient or naïve -- plenty of ink and pixels have been spilled on the subject of how the book business does not serve the reading public or authors well -- but it is certainly true that Amazon plays by a different set of rules.
Amazon's belief that it is acting in the best interest of the customer is sincere but disputed. Disruption is always going to create some new winners and losers. Take the book business: does the customer only want lower prices and greater selection? The publishers, in exercising their gatekeeping function and editorial role, keep prices high and the selection limited, which benefit some authors (authors who don't earn out their advance) at the expense of others (bestselling authors and authors who don't get published), help some individuals and businesses to survive (especially employees of publishers and bookstores) at the expense of others, and make some customers happy (customers who like the editorial taste of the publisher, especially less popular books) at the expense of others (customers who can't find what they like to read).
Amazon's relentless push to lower ebook prices and to bypass the publishers so that authors can directly reach readers through Amazon will not benefit every customer (and will certainly not benefit every author), but it will certainly benefit Amazon and some authors and some (perhaps most?) customers. People do vote with their dollars, and if Amazon wins, ultimately it's because the customers -- as a whole -- have spoken.
Jeff Bezos: job-creating, customer-focused superman or employee-berating, small business-destroying super villain?
Jeff Bezos is one of the most controversial figures in modern-day America because he's both - both a self-made billionaire and a scourge to independent retailers everywhere. The man who founded the empire that is Amazon Inc. is a self-made man who fully buys into America's "the customer is always right" mantra and a man who epitomizes the cruel corporate obsession with profits.
"The Everything Store" documents the extent to which Bezos goes to ensure that Amazon customers are satisfied. It's pretty insane, really, how obsessed Bezos is with making sure his customers are happy. The things that Bezos, the founder of the world's largest internet company, does to ensure his customers get the best selection, price, and support when making a transaction on Amazon.com are incredibly impressive.
But Amazon and Bezos could also be Exhibit A in the "capitalism run amok" speech Bernie Sanders often gives.
My big issue with "The Everything Store" is that Brad Stone often seems reluctant to delve too deeply into the clearly deserved criticism Amazon gets for the way it treats its employees. Perhaps this is to avoid upsetting Bezos, whose participation in this book is evident, but it seems irresponsible not to go into greater detail about the poor factory conditions in Amazon's fulfillment centers and to avoid highlighting the loss of jobs caused by the closure of any number of small (and sometimes large) retailers that Amazon has basically forced out of the marketplace. Sure, this has been well documented elsewhere, but any authoritative biography on Bezos that fails to mention these things feels a little too closely allied with Amazon.
That's not to say that those things don't get passing references here, they do, but they're overshadowed by the positive things Stone has to say about Bezos' company. For the most part, though, Stone has set out to write a very stat-based account of Amazon's rise, and he's not overly interested in dealing with the consequences Bezos' decisions have wrought.
You do at times wonder when reading this thing why anyone in their right mind would work for a man like Jeff Bezos. The guy sounds like an absolute tyrant at times, one who enforces draconian policies regarding employee time off (he's against it) and overtime hours (he demands them). Employees quitting because they want to spend more time with their families is a common refrain, as is employees being forced to endure Bezos' outbursts and belittling.
"Giving employees bus passes? We don't want to do that! It costs money and means employees will want to leave before midnight to catch the last bus!"
Bezos is the stuff cult leaders are made of. The comparison of Amazon to a cult is made here and has been made elsewhere so many times as to render it completely unoriginal by this point, but enough current and former employees cite their fear of Bezos' being "disappointed" in them if they left Amazon that you do start to wonder if there is something in the water over there.
The way a company treats its employees tells you a lot about that company. Regardless of how low their prices are, I have already made the decision to stop shopping at Amazon. I'd rather pay a few bucks extra for my books but know I'm supporting an independent seller who, hopefully, treats his or her employees like individuals with feelings.
The problem in 2018 is that we're very much living in Amazon's world. I love audiobooks, and I got this one from Audible which is - surprise surprise - an Amazon company. Is resistance futile then?
What each and every one of us can do is protest the way Amazon treats its employees and how it fails to pay many of those that work in its fulfillment centers a living wage. Jeff Bezos and Amazon may be an American success story, but there's absolutely nothing American about threatening your rivals and forcing them out of business. There's nothing American about yelling at employees in board meetings for wanting better "work/life balance". There's nothing American about treating your employees like cattle.
I found the book interesting and informative, to see how an outsider views both Jeff and Amazon. Of course, as with any book where the subject is not an active participant, the book is slanted toward those episodes where Stone can find someone to talk about them. And of course, he includes that which supports his thesis.
I found the discussion about his biological father to be sensationalistic -- and unnecessarily intrusive to Jeff's family (both his real family and his biological father's family). Its also much easier to be in meetings and recollect the times where someone gets angry and not the times where praise is given.
My biggest concern is that I have first-hand knowledge of many of the episodes in the book (high school, original web site, 9/11, earthquake, A9, Manber/Holden, Kindle, Netflix). Overall, from the parts that I know about, about 80% is correct and 20% isn't (often in details, but incorrect nonetheless). That, of course, taints my view of the book as a whole, because I have to assume that 20% of the stuff I don't have personal knowledge of is also incorrect.
That said, I would still recommend the book (and especially the picture of Jeff in High School!)
Teknoloji dünyasına yön veren, Amerika menşeili hangi biyografiyi okursanız okuyun şu terimlerle karşılaşıyorsunuz: #arpanet, #darpa #whole earth catalog #DIY #1994 #hızlı büyü #kişiselleştirme.
Aynı şekilde nasıl oluyorsa şu insanların yolu mutlaka kesişiyor: @larry page, @sergey brin, @steve jobs, @steve wozniak, @elon musk, @jeff bezos ve hatta @howard schultz (nedense mark zuckerberg'i bu abiler arasında hiç göremiyoruz)
Kaliforniya'da Altına Hücum (Gold Rush) diye 1848–1855 tarihleri arasında bir dönem yaşanmış. Bir kişinin bulduğu altın keşif haberi zamanında 300.000'den fazla kişiyi bu bölgeye çekmiş. Sanırım Kaliforniya'da büyülü birşey var ve Silikon Vadisi döneminde Amerika Gold Rush'ı bir kez daha yaşamış gibi geliyor bana. Ancak bu sefer çok daha farklı değerli madenlerle.
İşte bu nedenledir ki rüzgarın elverişli estiği bir dönemi arkasına alan Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, hatta bugün çağ dışı kalmış ancak hayatını sürdüren Xerox ve IBM'in pek çok oyuncusu tarihin bir noktasında birbirlerini bulmuş görüyoruz.
Tabi mesele ilk başta herşeyi satan bir perakendeci olma misyonuyla yola çıkınca bu sefer periferdeki Walmart, kitapla başladığı için Barnes&Noble gibi yeni şirketler de bu kitaba giriyor. Ancak her liderin, dolayısıyla da şirketin olduğu gibi Amazon da inanılmaz büyüyor ve çeşitli sektörlere zorbalık (bully) yapmaya başlıyor. Şaşırdım mı, şaşırmadım. Büyümenin bir bedeli de bu sanırım. Jeff Bezos için dağdan döne döne inen bir Heidi beklemiyordum.
Amazon'un hikayesi sanki biraz daha farklı. Yıllar süren kar etmeden hayatta kalma mücadelesi ve kavgaların ardından, bana kalırsa çok da inovatif ve mükemmel olmayan hizmetler ve ürünler ortaya koyarak (Kindle, AWS, 1-Click, Prime, vs.) bugünlerine gelmiş. Öyle büyük bir dev olmuş ki içinde çalışanlar dahil olmak üzere etrafında hiçbirşey bırakmamış. Büyüklüğüne rağmen Google ve Facebook gibi cömert ve keyifli kampüsler inşa etmemiş, pintiliği sonuna kadar yaşamış ve yaşatmış. Buna rağmen Jeff Bezos'un şahsi çabalarıyla semirmiş de semirmiş.
Brad Stone, kitabında Ashlee Vance (Elon Musk biyografisinin yazarı) gibi fanboyluk yapmamış. Ara ara Amazon'un ve Jeff Bezos'un olumsuz yanlarına, ailesine değinmiş ancak bence yine yeterli değil. Gerçekten doyurucu bir biyografi okumak isteyenlere Walter Isaacson'un Steve Jobs kitabını öneririm.
Sonuç olarak Amazon'da çalışmak ister miydim? Sanırım gençken isterdim ama 35 yaşıma geldiğim şu günlerde artık "bu kadar" dünyevi şeylerden elimi çekip sadece mutlu olmak istiyorum. Amazon çalışanlarından büyük, daima öyle olacak ve onun için çalışmak isteyen birilerini her zaman bulacak. Herkes mutlu olduğu şeyi yapmalı.
I think Jeff is one of the most capable and effective founders ever, and I think the Amazon juggernaut is still in its early stages. ~Joy Covey
Overall a fascinating story of the determined underdog coming out on top. While it does get bogged down in a few places with excessive technical or legal details, this was a really engaging read. I particularly found the more personal stories around Bezos to be fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the brilliant man.
Having been an Amazon fan girl and ebook lover since the Kindle 2 was released, this book brought my respect for Bezos and Amazon's journey to a whole new level. Other large businesses should be sitting up and taking lessons from their focus on customer service. Amazon has really raised the bar; inefficient companies and those with bloated margins will need to improve their game or fall behind. Their ideology and innovativeness is praise-worthy and I am so thankful for the ebook revolution that has been sparked in large part by the Kindle.
Amazon has set the publishing world on fire, and I believe the changes are most beneficial for authors and readers, the true foundation and soul of the literary world. Also was surprised to learn that Jeff Bezos is a fellow Libertarian...be still my beating heart.
Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. ~Jeff Bezos ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: Amazon's culture has been engineered to cater obsessively to its customers. The company's loyal patrons enjoy the fruits of that focus every time they interact with it. Suppliers who view Amazon as a bully are perfectly free to sell their wares elsewhere. Employees who feel marginalized or mistreated can leave at any time.
First Sentence: In the early 1970s, an industrious advertising executive named Julie Ray became fascinated with an unconventional public-school program for gifted children in Houston, Texas.
very fast read - having lived many of the situations. i don't think the portrayal of jeff was near balanced enough. he is relentless in his customer obsession and that's at the cornerstone of everything. i have been in uncomfortable meetings with him. but, i cannot hoestly say that i have ever been in unfair meetings with him. when i did things or led things that made that vein on his forhead pop out, in the end, it was pretty apparent in hindsight (for me) that i'd amde a mistake. so, he was right to be angry. and, with the amount that he can process and deal with at teh same time, it's actually amazing he is as patient as he is. i am a huge fan of Jeff's and of Amazon. and, to prove it, I am a boomerang.
The delivery vehicles from Amazon and their piles of shipments are familiar sights for me at the workplace. The sales volume being made just from this one small workplace and in extension, this small city in Southern India can be extrapolated to fully appreciate Amazon’s reach in India. Back in 1994-95, when Michael Crichton’s Airframe went on sale, Crichton was hot property in India following the runaway success of Jurassic Park. When writing about Crichton a Malayalam newspaper quoted in a single line about a website named Amazon which was selling the book. At that time and age, the word website to me was indistinguishable from quantum physics and the status of most others were no different as most of us were even unused to dial in internet connections then and the PC was an unaffordable luxury. E-commerce in India started taking root slowly and yet surely branching out from the major cities into smaller ones with their focus on customer service and solid delivery.
By nature, a lot of people in India were skeptical about the whole online aspect of commerce in the early stages pronouncing such judgements as - ’You can’t trust them you know ! They will cheat you out of your money.’ or ’This money you spent on ordering all this junk is gone !’. They grudgingly accepted defeat when the delivery guys turned up with goods in perfect shape and on time at our doorsteps. Over the last 7 to 8 years where Amazon and its rivals have made huge inroads into India, there has been a turnaround to this mentality wherein I now have folks from the same demographic slice now asking me (or people of my group who actively use online commerce) to order things for them. The path to such an acceptance has been fraught with difficulties and immense learning for the retailers and Amazon ( and Flipkart plus their other rivals) are household names in India now. This growth stage is perhaps only a blip in the radar of Amazon which has over the years pursued a hyper aggressive growth strategy across the world. Brad Stone’s book covers the time from Amazon’s inception in a minuscule office in the US to the global behemoth it is today.
As with all founder led firms, the story of Amazon is inseparable from Jeff Bezos and his indomitable determination. For want of a better term, I could only characterize Bezos as a leader with a far reaching vision. Not many people who saw this small time online bookseller in the early 90’s would have anticipated it to scale up and spread its might across a majority of commodities that people shop for. Working through fierce competition and going up in arms against global majors like Walmart and Costco, Amazon slowly made its presence felt in the US and later across the world. Their growth is a story of innovative practices, pinpoint focus on customer service and a massive number of employee burnouts.
The portrayal of Bezos here alternates between a hyper intelligent leader to that of a micro-managing and demanding manager with an extremely short fuse. Any of you who have worked with leaders who have ambitious goals will know that it is no mean task to keep up with them and their way of working. These are not the kind of people who will take nicely to excuses, procrastination or slipped timelines and you really do not want to end up holding the short end of the stick with them. If I go by what Brad Stone says about Jeff Bezos then he is an apotheosis of such a manager. Pause a moment and look at the bigger picture of Amazon, there can be zero complacency about running such a business for that would be your death knell. Having such a charged environment is about people being cut throat competent and that burnout would be a fact of life. A quarter or two back, NYT published a scathing article about how Amazon’s focus on getting things done ends up affecting employees. Bezos and other leaders and even employees came out in public to refute the claims but the underlying message was that a lot of it is based on perceptions and that not everyone is cut out for life on the edge. As in a former review I had written about Elon Musk’s companies, if these firms were the big bad wolves as some former employees claim them to be then why do people flock to get into them for work ?
The inorganic growth of the firm has also been massive wherein they have been able to add IMDB, Zappos, Audible and even Goodreads to their fold. Some of these moves as the author highlights in this book has been totally predatory with case in question being the acquisition of Zappos. But then Amazon has never been known to hesitate when it comes to expanding their footprint and also in building a bigger customer base. Hesitation in such a case is giving one of your rivals an open door to put their foot in. There are chapters devoted exclusively about the development of the Kindle and also on Amazon’s acerbic relationships with the book publishing houses. One can always look at the growth path of this website as a case study and can call it either a monstrous apparition or an extremely shrewd way of getting more business and that again is always a matter of perspective. To go back to the first paragraph, Amazon is now on a fiercely competitive streak in India where in 2016 they have invested $5 bn. for a multi-pronged approach of expanding their reach in the subcontinent and also to take on their key rival in India Flipkart. It will be an interesting few years for us in India for sure !
There were parts I was not overly fond of in the book and this is the same problem I had with Elon Musk’s story in that the author tries to guess what Bezo’s mind-set could have been in retrospect. Having read and heard of him as a very private person, it is rather ludicrous to read sentences like ’Bezos felt… or ’Bezos thought…’. These somehow don’t add up.
All considered it is an excellent case study of how incredibly hard work, a customer centric business model, perseverance and shrewd business sense helped build one of the world’s largest business firms. The irony of it all was that I read this book on the Kindle. Recommended !
Ah yes. The book that launched a bitter and brutal flame war between Hachette and Amazon.com. How could I not read it?
I have to say, it took me awhile to realize what Jeff Bezos's problem was with the book. Because, well... from everything else I've read about Amazon, this shit is accurate. Don't like being characterized as a perfectionist, demanding, dictatorial genius? Then don't be one, Jeff Bezos. Don't like having your company's methods of skirting around established trade laws become known to the wider public? Then don't act like the rules are meant to be broken, Amazon. But nobody likes to be seen as the bad guy, so I get it.
That's just the thing though: Amazon doesn't come off as the bad guy. I read this whole thing and wouldn't characterize the company as any more evil or tyrannical than any other large, bajillion dollar American company. In fact, their motivations are almost noble at times, and their vision so far-sighted as to be practically inscrutable. Nobody knows what Amazon's end-game is (aside from Jeff Bezos perhaps), and I seriously doubt we'll find out within my lifetime. As a book publishing professional it almost pains me to say, but I'm not sure Amazon is evil anymore. Self-interested, certainly. But not necessarily the monster I've always took it for.
There was one thing in the book that I thought was worthy of raising Bezos's ire. The author tracked down Bezos's birth father--the guy who knocked up Bezos's mom when they were both teenagers and like many teenage fathers tried his best to stick around before leaving out of fear and a sense of inadequacy--who had no fucking idea his son was one of the richest men in the country. The author found this man, told him who his son was, and then facilitated contact between the birth father and Bezos. Which is AN INCREDIBLY FUCKED UP THING TO DO. Seriously, dafuq was this asshole of an author thinking? How dare he presume to stick his nose in the personal lives of both Bezos and his birth father? What an invasive, rude, manipulative, hurtful, insensitive thing he has done. From the book, it sounds like Bezos has a very warm, close relationship with his stepfather (who is, for all intents and purposes up to and including their shared last name, his father) and had no wish to contact his biological father.
So characterizations of Amazon and its business practices aside, I don't fucking blame Jeff Bezos for trying to destroy this book, its author, and its publisher. There was ABSOLUTELY NO NEED for Stone to track down Bezos's biological father. This part of the book made me question all of his research practices in preparing for the book. For if he is that tone-deaf to social propriety, what does that say about his information-gathering ethics? What does that say about his perceptions of the culture inside Amazon? It says a whole lot about Brad Stone as a person (read: he's a shitty fucking person).
So yes, I learned a lot about the brief, meteoric rise of Amazon through the pages of this book. But contrary to the majority of reviews and Bezos's own perception of the book, it actually made me more sympathetic to Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos than before I read it.
I tend to avoid business books with fancy title such as Think and Grow Rich or Rich Dad, Poor Dad because business cannot be all things to all people. I usually reach for books about specific organizations, and this book is the fourth one for this topic.
Amazon is a revolutionary business model which sells everything online and gradually replace normal brick-and-mortal stores. A lot of Amazon's marketing strategies have been learnt and applied by other e-commerce sites, especially for book retailers: - User-generated content (book review) is helpful for customer when making purchase decisions. ...we don't make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions. - Affiliate marketing: advertise your site in other websites. - Similarities: create a group of people that have the same purchase history and suggest books for them. - Recommend books based on last purchase. - Customers can read the book before purchasing. - Ship efficiently and offer precise delivery time.
This book also reveals Jeff's being adopted, harsh management style and his reality distortion, just like Steve Jobs. However, his legacy cannot be done by ordinary people, just like a quote in Imitation Game, "Sometimes it's the very people who no one imagines anything of who do things that no one can imagine".
It was great that thanks to Bezos, the book acknowledged the existence of narrative bias in all such writings and came out less "worshipy" than Vance's Musk biography. But then this book was more about Amazon than Bezos himself, so probably unfair to compare. Amazon did not come off as a fun or nice place to work.