** The Everything Store by Brad Stone


The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is a classically built business story, reminding us that Amazon was not always the behemoth it is today but had humble beginnings when innovation consisted in procuring a table to pack books rather than having to pack on the floor! Apart from describing the move from packing tables to sophisticated fulfillment centers replete with robots to handle the packing, the author explains how Amazon bullied publishers into sweetheart deals on e-books and, infamously, patented the one-click buying protocol. He also tells the story of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, somewhat awkwardly sandwiching it between company milestones.

 

Three things stood out for me in this book. One is the very deliberate business choices made by Amazon from the very start. We may think of Amazon as a bookstore, but books were chosen mainly for their fit with the online-selling model, not any particular love of books per se. Amazon is headquartered in Washington state to minimize the need of paying sales tax (although several states, including California, have successfully sued and won against Amazon, thereby changing its distribution model.)  Second,  Jeff Bezos made many, many bad bets along the way, including misguided investments in such notorious flops as pets.com, as well as internal failures such as an auction site to compete with eBay. And three, the most remarkable accomplishment of Amazon, foreshadowed in its early “innovation” of using packing tables, may well be its reinvention of the traditional way of preparing orders, replacing it with innovative software and robots.

That said, I found my attention wandering at times. The minutiae of which Marketing VP got yelled out at what meeting just did not seem that compelling to me…

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