It sounds like a disaster: a company run by a demanding chief who regularly yells at employees, drops hundreds of millions on soon-to-fail internet ventures, and alienates talented deputies to the point of quitting.
The success of Amazon.com, argues journalist Brad Stone in his biography of Jeff Bezos released this month, could not have happened without those failings.
Brad Stone has covered Amazon.com on and off for a decade, and he brings that experience, extensive interviews and a knack for momentum-driven writing to The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Mr Bezos made headlines in August when he bought The Washington Post and its affliate newspapers for US$250 million, the latest outlandish investment following ambitious endeavours in private space travel.
In a real-life indication of the extent to which Amazon has changed how we consume books – in addition to the Levi’s 501 blue jeans, Twist Bands Rainbow Loom children’s toys and “Outdoor Fake, Dummy Security Camera with Blinking Light” that are among the online shop’s bestsellers – I purchased my copy two days after publication while eating at a restaurant in Tokyo, where I downloaded the book’s 373 pages to Kindle within a minute.
Stone launches his narrative with the description of a young boy named Tim at a magnet school. He stands out so much for his intellect that another mother at the school features him in her book about the gifted education movement.
For a statistics assignment, 12-year-old Tim asks his peers to rate teachers on their skills; Tim replicates a battery-powered toy that creates the appearance of infinite tunnel at a cost cheaper than prices in stores.
“Tim,” of course, is actually “Jeff”. Stone’s storytelling skills and deep research into his subject come together to create a must-read – whether or not you own a Kindle.