★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of five)
I just finished The Everything Store by Brad Stone and now is as good of a time as any to reflect on the nature of one of the giants of the modern day, Amazon.
The sheer ferocity displayed by Bezos and his team while trying ensure better prices and a better experience for its customer is impressive and more than a little scary. The conflict that resulted was with parties as diverse as the content gatekeepers of the “old world” like book publishers, 200-year old German knife manufacturers whose minimum advertised price was being violated, and all the way up to state-level actors like New York who were trying to impose sales tax. The book leaves you with very mixed feelings about both Bezos and the techniques that he’s used to turn Amazon into the mighty behemoth that it is today. But even so, I couldn’t help but to also consider these transgressions from my own perspective as an Amazon customer, who now pays less for books than ever before and experiences a level of convenience that would have been unimaginable in any other age.
Aside from just business history, the book also describes some of the particularly memorable quirks of the giant: the two-pizza team, the “Sev-B” e-mails directly from Bezos himself (other emergencies are labeled Sev-5 down to Sev-1 internally in ascending level of urgency), and the founder’s infamous level of micromanagement. More generally, it’s very well-written, feels complete, and is paced for an engaging read. I’d highly recommend it.