Do you remember shopping at Sears, K-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Hastings, or another recently bankrupt business? What happened? One answer is e-commerce. And what company represents that most? The prime example is Amazon. Because 2-day shipping!? Yeah, well, that’s part of it. But there’s much more. Read my 99.9% spoiler-free review of The Everything Store to find out!
Open For Business
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos And The Age Of Amazon is a book by Brad Stone that was on my to-read list for quite a long time. And a few weeks ago, I happened to notice on my kindle paperwhite that the book was on sale for just $3.99!
I snapped it up. Glad I did, too!
If you like Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, or books like Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story, then you will love Brad Stone’s The Everything Store.
Far more than mere fact-vomit, Stone’s book is written in true narrative style. Not only do you learn the data-points detailing the rise of Amazon, you know the story. Everyone loves a good story: this one is true!
The Everything Store is laid out chronologically except for a few key parts here and there. Author Brad Stone moves smoothly from one part to the next with transitional statements that clearly explain the overarching cause-effect relationships between each part.
To understand the growth and expansion of Amazon, Stone informs the reader of Bezos’ underlying principles that are core to his company vision. Stone also explains the surrounding context and culture that bring situational opportunities or restrictions affecting Amazon’s beginning, acceleration, contraction, and explosion.
The story is fast-paced during most of the book, with a few sections of slow-down so you can catch your breath and absorb the narrative.
Like any good read, this book has a colorful cast of real fleshed-out characters, the main protagonist being Jeff Bezos, co-founder of the company and CEO with a grand vision of “The Everything Store.”
And there’s conflict. Lots of conflict. And drama.
It’s a tale of survival against all odds: the dot-com crash cratered most businesses in the late 1990’s. But Amazon managed to survive.
The Everything Store is also a prime display of rivalry. Bezos pursues his company vision with fierce competitiveness. He is ruthless, relentless, and shrewd. Amazon’s prowess is largely all Bezos, because even though other Amazon executives and attorneys play key roles, it’s Bezos’ spirit and drive that infuse and inspire others’ actions.
And it’s crystal clear that these actions are not on behalf of the company; they’re on behalf of the customer! If Bezos does not sit on the throne at Amazon, customer satisfaction does.
Jeff Bezos’ brilliance is displayed repeatedly in the story by his counter-intuitive or unorthodox business savvy. He understood, and firmly believed amidst doubters, that the internet would change retail as it was known because it allowed business to conduct in entirely new ways. While most were adverse to change, Bezos and Amazon flourished in it.
The Everything Store is not just the story of Amazon, but it’s also a mini-biography of Jeff Bezos, the e-commerce pioneer who still runs the company over 20 years later. You learn about his parents, his schooling, and the early signs of his talents. You don’t learn about Bezos’ personal life outside of direct connection to the business of Amazon and Bezos’ early career endeavors.
And when it comes to Star Wars versus Star Trek, you learn Bezos is firmly on the Star Trek side. On that line, you also read about Bezos’ personal interest in space travel and his other endeavor, “Blue Origin”. Though there is not much detail on this. Blue Origin got a section or two plus some mentions but not a dedicated chapter.
For me, Amazon’s story is fascinating lore. I savored the behind-the-curtain view of the company. I basked in the surrounding nostalgia as I read of Amazon’s start in the 1990’s. The sparring between Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble makes you want to re-watch You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
I was pulled into the detailed development of the technology that fueled the advance of the juggernaut. You learn about the early internet, the book publishing industry, e-commerce, traditional retailing, Amazon Prime, Super Saver Shipping, Amazon Web Services, the kindle, parts of the tech industry, and more.
Steve Jobs and Apple have a role to play in the story too! Jobs’ concept of the whole music experience with the iPod plus iTunes influenced Bezos’ conception of the kindle e-reader plus e-books.
Side note: if you want to read in depth about the creation of the kindle, check out Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski.
The Everything Store is required reading for any tech-nerd. And it’s recommended reading for everyone else.
Finally, the story includes an awesome emotional touch in an unexpected pseudo plot twist closing. It involves Bezos’ family. This closure is well done.
I waffled between a 4 or 5 star rating because 5-star books are rare. You don’t just hand out 5-stars like they’re nothing. A book like this must really stand out above the rest. What tipped me to the max rating was asking, “If it’s 4-stars, what would make it better?” That’s when I realized the book earns 5 stars.
That said, there are some things not in the story simply because it was published in 2013. You don’t learn about the fire phone flop, and you especially miss out from the omission of Alexa!
I highly recommend The Everything Store as your next good read if you want a true-to-life fascinating look at the rise of not just a single company but e-commerce in general.
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