Book Review: ‘The Everything Store’

The Everything Store
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The Everything Store

by Brad Stone

About the Book

‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone is a chronicle of the origins of Amazon, and its relentless, visionary founder Jeff Bezos.  Stone takes us through a year-by-year account of the ups and downs of the fledgling business, leading to its emergence as a behemoth of the twenty-first century.

About the Author

Brad Stone is a journalist and former writer for the New York Times and Newsweek magazine.  He is currently a senior executive editor at Bloomberg News.  In 2003 he wrote his first book Gearheads: the Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports, and has recently released  The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World.

Review

Firstly, this book is exceptionally well written.  Stone weaves a narrative through the chronology of Amazon’s history, moving back and forth in time to illustrate the impact of certain key individuals on the fortunes of the company.  And there were a great many  of those individuals indeed!

What I found fascinating about this book is in reading just how inefficiently Amazon began.  We think of the company as this towering eCommerce giant, with its tentacles spread wide and far across more product categories than we can count.  It’s easy to forget that it began, however, as an online book retailer.  I was particularly fond of the description of the early days of their book distribution arrangement.  Customers would order a book on Amazon, Amazon would subsequently place an order for that book with one of their two wholesale distributors, and once delivered, would then post it out to the customer.

The first week after the official launch, they took $12,000 in orders and shipped $846 worth of books, according to Eric Dillon, one of Amazon’s original investors. The next week they took $14,000 in orders and shipped $7,000 worth of books. So they were behind from the get-go and scrambling to catch up.

Stone, Brad. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (pp. 39-40). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

A far cry from today, when their growing range of products can be delivered within two hours!  This dramatic improvement is based upon Bezos’ philosophy of putting the customer above everything.  Stone repeatedly reiterates this important tenet of the Amazon philosophy that Bezos has ingrained in the organisation.

If you’re at all interested in business or entrepreneurship, I highly recommend this book.  Bezos is clearly someone to aspire to, and there are many stories & descriptions contained within the book that illustrate just how driven he is.  I am reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which, among other things, forms a link between the right person and the right time.  Think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates maturing with the age of the computer.  Bezos is another product of this fortuitous cosmic alignment.  A man in the right place at the right time, able to visualise the staggering impact the internet has had upon us all, and capitalise on it.

As Stone points out, however, his story is just the beginning.

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