Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review: The Everything Store by Brad Stone @bradstone

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by

Review by ()

I love Seattle. I thought I loved L.A. and possibly there's still a part of me that does, but I love Seattle. I love the beauty of the city in its rich history and architecture to the tall lines of its modern buildings. And then there's the trees, the water and the mountains. And the weather complements it as well, whether it's a beautiful 72 degree spring day or a gray, rainy, blustery day. So I've always been a fan of its local industries and the degree to which Seattle businesses become global juggernauts.

So of course I had to read the Amazon book. I couldn't help compare to "By My Guest" by Hilton which my dad loaned me and got me interested in these types of books (and one that I apparently never reviewed on my blog) and "Onward" by Howard Schultz (which remains a popular read on my blog).

The book is a quick read and you get to learn some unique things, like about some of the building or conference room names (one after the first customer, another after a dog that would accompany an early employee into the office). Another is the small, independent team mentality which sounds fascinating and scary but may also be why this reviewer continues to get emails from Kindle Brazil despite the nice letter from the Director of Amazon Brazil pledging to get me off the list (probably as a result of me writing to jeff@amazon.com and that director getting one of Jeff's famous "?" emails.) But in the same way that it's a quick read, it also feels rushed.

Jeff Bezos says that Amazon is still on "Day One" - that most of Amazon's story is yet to be written. This book suffers for that - while a great look at what's happened so far, the pace at which things are changing means that far more quickly than, say, Hilton, the book becomes past its good-through date: you get to the end and you think "what about... and... and...?" This may not necessarily be the book's fault, attempting to capture a snapshot in time of a company that's moving so quickly. I think what makes "I'm Feeling Lucky" (my review) is that the author was an employee but then left, which gives the book more natural closure. While Stone had access to a number of employees, including Bezos for while, it's more analysis and recounting events but you lose some of the narrative or some of the inherent underlying vision of someone who lived it as an employee or the visionary themselves.

I think it's telling about Amazon that even this book was embroiled in controversy - there was questions about whether it would be sold on Amazon and the store and publisher have tangled over pricing.

The Everything Store is told from more of an outsider's perspective. It tries not to be critical, but it's probably a little more "warts and all" than the Hilton or Starbucks or Google book. I was applying for jobs while I read this book and I came close to withdrawing as I read. The book shows a relentless pursuit of customer service, but I wonder if it's at the expense of anything else and everything else.

I'd do recommend this book, it's full of great stories and gives you some glimpses of the birth and growing pains of this modern juggernaut. And I'd definitely recommend it for Amazon employees - these are the stories that are being told. If they're wrong or incomplete then Amazon needs to do a better job of telling its story, its way.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Amazon.com)

Links to Amazon are tagged with my affiliate code, of course. You'd be surprised how many thermistors I've sold for Amazon.