Published on: November 14, 2013
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Normally I save my book reviews for Fridays, but this week I want to use this time to talk to you about "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon," the just published book by Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek.
My recommendation is very simple. Everybody needs to read this book. Whether you approach it as a consumer or as a businessperson, or whether you are a retailer or a manufacturer, "The Everything Store" is a fascinating account of how Amazon was created and evolved. Unlike Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, "The Everything Store" is not an intimately familiar portrayal of Bezos - it wasn't meant to be, in part because Bezos didn't really cooperate with its writing.
But that said, it is an enormously engrossing look at the genius behind Amazon. And make no mistake - Bezos is one of the few people who, no matter where he is, probably is the smartest guy in the room. He also has that thing that seems to personify great leaders of transformational businesses - the ability to see things that nobody else sees, to drive things forward no matter what the obstacles, and, in some cases, to be ignorant about human limitations and feelings. That means he can act like an ass, and be an ass, more than occasionally. But it is hard to argue with the premise that his unwillingness to accept limitations, or mediocrity, or anything less than the best, is what makes his business so extraordinary.
One of the reasons I liked the book so much is that I was an early adopter of the Amazon business model - I placed my first order on Amazon back in 1997, and when reading the book, I can almost imagine the chaos that my order - and so many other orders in those early days - created. It almost seems at time like Amazon succeeded in spite of itself … there were so many missteps, snafus, miscalculations and bad decisions, that the company almost succeeded in spite of itself. But the unifying glue behind the whole thing is Bezos … it is almost as if he cannot accept the notion of defeat, and so the company keeps moving ahead. If he'd been the captain of the Titanic, he would've figured out a way to keep the boat afloat.
There's been some controversy about the fact that MacKenzie Bezos, the wife of the founder, has taken issue with some of the book. I suspect that the real problem is that different people see the same events through different prisms, and so not everyone agrees how things unfolded. MacKenzie Bezos may not be the most objective observer of how Jeff Bezos operates. In fact, I would hope she wouldn't be.
"The Everything Store" is that wonderful thing - a page-turning business book that is full of great stories, interesting people, and a main character who has done as much as anyone to define the character of e-commerce in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: