I purchased The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon a few years ago and finally settled into reading it this year. While I can remember shopping Amazon in the late ‘90s, it was fascinating to see how the store started from the ground up.
What struck me throughout the book was how Bezos was driven to be the best—nay, to be the everything—from the beginning. I personally didn’t become aware of the man as founder and CEO until much later when I think everyone else did, so to get a glimpse at the history is pretty fascinating. What made the biggest impression on me was learning how Amazon started out as an “every single book” store before branching out into as many other directions as possible—all under the leadership of Bezos.
While I think a good many of us can nod our heads at what we know must have been great sacrifice and unyielding vision to create Amazon out of nothing but a dream, at the same time, I believe we also all have an idea, thanks to the constant press Amazon gets, what kind of person it takes to lead that sort of corporation. Author Brad Stone, while as diplomatic and neutral as possible, pulls no punches when describing the sort of leader Bezos has been known as: “acerbic,” “stingy with praise,” “prone to melodramatic temper tantrums” (also called “nutters”), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, Bezos inspired great loyalty in others.
I think one word can sum up all angles of Bezos: type relentless.com into your web browser and see where it takes you (hint: we’re talking about it). Even at the beginning, Bezos intended to be just that: relentlessly scooping up customers from every corner of the internet. And he succeeded when many dot-coms failed at the turn of the century.
What I enjoyed most about The Everything Store was seeing how much Amazon shaped the book world. I’d gone into the book knowing the Kindle made quite an impact (in fact, ebooks were still unloved stepchildren until Amazon changed all that), but I didn’t know how, even before that, Amazon was calling some shots in the industry. This book will open your eyes like it did mine in terms of the power Amazon quickly amassed and then wielded. For us independent authors, it was a godsend. The publishing industry, however, was not amused, but they had to keep up just the same.
It was truly inspiring to see all the avenues Amazon tried out, just to see if they would fit, to discovering how truly “relentless” Amazon is—from mercilessly gobbling up online shoe merchant Zappos.com to bullying other merchants (such as Wüsthof), it is quite clear that Bezos and Amazon won some battles and may likely win a war through its relentless pursuits of offering everything to everybody…but that as yet remains to be seen.
If you shop on Amazon, I encourage you to one-click this book as well.