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Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut

3.3  ·  Rating details ·  196 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Employee #55's story of the first five years of, which "brims with fascinating Amazoniana." (The Los Angeles Times)

In a book that Ian Frazier has called, "a fascinating and sometimes hair-raising morality tale from deep inside the Internet boom," James Marcus, hired by in 1996, when the company was so small his e-mail address could be
Paperback, 278 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by The New Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
"Amazonia" is part memoir amd part insider look at the early days of Marcus, employee #55, takes his reader through the start-up phase of the company, to the soaring stock prices and subsequent splits, all the way through the tech bubble bust.

I found the information on Amazon the most fascinating; as a devoted Amazonian myself, I really liked learning more about the company's younger years and transformations that took place (when I was still in middle school and thus unaware) that
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book offer's an insiders peak to the rise and fall of Amazon during the dotcom boom years. It details the author's rise from a broke father, to a multi-millionare all the way back down with the rise and fall of Amazon's stock price. What was most interesting to me was, that while this book was about Amazon as a company, I expected it to be much more focused on the company instead it was 65% the company and 35% the author's personal life and involvement with the company. I guess I was thinki ...more
Chris Arndt
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ok... I'm in this book. Chap 2 and 3. Chris...:)
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
This almost more of a memoir than a look into Amazon. Marcus applies a dedicated memory to a start-up that goes a hundred different directions before it looks like the Amazon today. Parts are a little funny, you get the idea that many people were expected to work with many things they barely understood. You get confirmation about some of Jeff Bezos's quirks or management style. It's like your spouse unwinding after a long day if that day lasted 5 years.

To be honest, I picked it up without any ex
Drake Tungsten
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-business
I liked this book. It was a good inside view of how Amazon operated and grew.

I must admit that it brought back memories of my own experiences during the dot-com boom. During a similar timeframe (about four years), I saw gameplans change frequently and before I left saw the generalist, non-tech people like myself replaced by the techno-elite. These phenomena seem to have been more widespread than I realized at the time.

The author does go off on some diversions here and there during the story, but
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oh, my big mouth loves to lead me into projects larger than they need to be. Why, why do I complicate my life?! I'm in a class called "Search and Discovery", which sounds like we go spelunking every week, or dig for buried treasure, or compete in World of Warcraft quests, but is actually a rather anti-climactic exercise in culling digital and physical resources for information. Our first assignment is to research an "information producer", from which we were to pick from a list, and investigate ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of Amazon
“Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut.” This book is part “my life at Amazon” and part memoir by the author James Marcus who was the 55th hire there.

Last year I had read “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone and really enjoyed it. So in picking up this book from a library book sale I was excited to read another facet of the story from someone who was inside from the early years.

At the time of being hired the author is married and stru
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I just finished reading this great memoir written by James Marcus, which details the 5 years he spent working for from 1996-2001. The book is a great read, as James clearly knows many more words than I do, and uses them all cleverly to describe the sights, sounds and spirit of early Amazon. From there, he talks about the amazing phenomena of watching Amazon grow to manage 1% of all book sales, the perceived threat of Barnes & Noble, payola for home page book placements, and the de ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
There's probably a great cultural history to be written about the role of Seattle, 1988-2004 or so. Consider: Microsoft, Starbucks, grunge, tech frontier, the cultural frontier, and then their containment/assimilation into the suburbanization of the nation. Taylor Clarke's dumb-ass Starbucked (maybe 50 pages of good material, drowning in bad jokes, repeated tropes about 4-dollar coffee, and restatements of his main thesis: much like a famous chain's big lattes, come to think of i ...more
Apr 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
The book is called a memoir, but throughout the book the author vacillates on how much of his personal life to inject into the narrative and I would have preferred either none at all or something much more honest and forthcoming. Instead we get two sentences about the separation and divorce from his wife and another about getting involved with someone else who is pointedly not located in Seattle (perhaps to deflect speculation on workplace romance), but he has nothing to say on the bearing of th ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-to-know
This book was was an easy and interesting read (except for the chapter about Emerson). I knew that Amazon started as an online bookseller, but I didn't know that they even employed editors at the beginning to handpick featured books and write book reviews. (The editors were outmoded before I started using the site myself). I liked the stories about him having to handle customer phone calls and pack books in the warehouse during the early days of the company.

The book feels uneven because the auth
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a highly readable, and really interesting look at both the book business, and the growth of an incredibly profitable company. Jeff Bezos undeniably moved from a small start-up in his garage to a massively profitable company with thousands of employees, how? Marcus joined Amazon in its early years, and although he didn't really work directly with Bezos he definitely seems to capture the feeling in the company's early years. It's a heady combination of insider/outsider, the fee ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting account of the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of Amazon from a small company to a huge juggernaut of a store, the triumph of accountants over the book people and the triumph of Jeff Bezos' vision of an online book marketplace that has moved away from books and diversified.

James Marcus spent five years, starting quite early in the company's story, with amazon and he details a lot of what happened from his point of view. It's interesting and you can see some of the pangs o
Ronald Wise
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The memories of an employee during the incredible growth of the company from 1996 to 2001. Of particular relevance to me is that the author was living near me on Queen Anne Hill and working near me in downtown Seattle at the time. He shared many of my perceptions then — from the incredible wealth flowing into Seattle, to our experiences of the Nisqually Quake in February 2001. His narrative saddened me to again realize the missed opportunites for almost instant wealth that surrounded ...more
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Confession: I didn't read this book all at ebook library checkout expired when I was in the middle of it and it took several weeks to get the book back...but even still, there was a lot of name dropping without that much substance. The cast of characters just wasn't that interesting, aside from Jeff Bezos (but we knew that already). I found it hard to remember who everyone was, much less care about their fate. And all the events described in the book have been eclipsed by further techn ...more
Sarah Ewald
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on the early years of, by employee #55. In the beginning, Bezos brought in literary people to review books and create buzz. It was with a personal touch that emails went out to customers of the literary-bent. This was before today's computer-generated emails that think that just because you like one author's book, you will want the next ad-infinium. It must have been a great place to work in those early days... Then came the MBA's and the personal touch went downhill. ...more
Stephanie Walden
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I find it pretty entertaining that I'm rating a book that generally talks about an Amazon book editor's fall from glory due to the general public's input...

Interesting to learn about how the company changed and grew in Seattle over the years. Although I'm definitely a fan of Amazon, hearing about how the company is so dead-set on always finding more ways to get the public to buy more - thereby making more money for Amazon - doesn't make me happy. America's consumerism is a problem, and Amazon de
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tech
Five stars for how much I enjoyed it, rather than how abstractly “good” I think it is. The quality of writing is substantially above that of most of these corporate memoirs — as might be expected from someone who was effectively's lead editor, responsible for the content of the homepage until the algorithms took over — but I'm not sure how much it would resonate for people who didn't live through that late '90s e-commerce world.
Jan 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, memoir
Well written pacy coverage of employee# 55's five years at Amazon. Though enjoyable it did feel as if it was written by an outsider looking in - no real insight into strategy and technology and the political battles that must have been waged during this tumultous time.

So not a business-tech book then but well worth a read.
Dec 05, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping this would give facts about how Amazon made it to what it is today. Unfortunately, it was a book written by a past employee who I think tries to make jokes through-out the book but fails to be even mildly entertaining. It's basically about the authors 5 years of working there and not much knowledge is gained from his insights.
Oct 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Amazon is a fascinating company and this book was a very good read. Having read Isaacson's bio of Steve Jobs, I think I set my expectations too high for this book. I was hoping for even more access than Marcus provided which is a tad unfair. Fun read, would recommend to anyone remotely interested in Amazon or the bubble.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
Ok coverage of behind the scenes at Amazon during the early days. I was looking for an understanding of Amazon as a technology company but in fact this book provides more of an insight in to the role of classic editing and book reviewing inside the internet book seller. Well written but isn't quite what I expected
Mar 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I think I understand a little better now after reading Marcus' book. His account of the early days of the company was interesting. It would have been an even more interesting book if he had been more open about his personal life to give the work more context but it was still an enjoyable read.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a really interesting account of the 5 years that James Marcus spent as employee #55 at Amazon.Com. I've worked at startups and dot coms and I can see the headquarters of Amazon.Com out my living room window so possibly, I had a bit more interest in the topic than your average reader, but I think it has broad appeal.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the .com bust or the book industry
Shelves: business
A really interesting look at what it was like to work at Amazon in the early days, written by a former employee. According to the book, a bell used to ring in the Amazon office each time a purchase was made. Ha!! And employees who are just waiting it out until their stock vests are called "resting and vesting."
Sep 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: office
Normally I judge the language by the number of times I had to open the dictionary. This book crammed with phrases like "... a few additional chinks in Jeff's vaunted amiability..." surely bamboozled me a lot. But it's witty and made me discover "a few additional chinks" in the cult of Technology.
Marceline Smith
Aug 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Got this from Microcosm too as a) it was in the sale, b) I love Amazon and c) I love reading about inteweb startups. It’s not mind-blowing, but a nice look into the early days of Amazon and how it went from crazy geeks to corporate globalisation.
Felice Lam
Interesting memoir from an early editor (employee #55) before the company became a huge success. Entertaining light read and amusing in some parts. Insightful for anyone interested in Amazon or for those who work(ed) there.
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it
An okay book on the early days of Amazon. I didn't find it particularly engaging, but now having worked at Amazon for a couple of years, it was interesting to learn how Bezos interacted with employees like he was just a regular guy.
Ben Krueger
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Not as much inside info on the makings of Amazon the business, more by way of personal journey and autobiography of the author. I recommend Spector's book over this one.
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