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Amazon.com [Paperback]

Robert Spector
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 10 2002
In Amazon.com Jeff Bezos built something the world had never seen. He created the most recognized brand name on the Internet, became for a time one of the richest men in the world, and was crowned "the king of cyber-commerce."

Yet for all the media exposure, the inside story of Amazon.com has never really been told. In this revealing, unauthorized account, Robert Spector, journalist and best-selling author, gives us this up-to-date, fast-paced, behind-the-scenes story of the company's creation and rise, its tumultuous present, and its uncertain future.



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About the Author

Robert Spector has reported on business for USA Today, UPI International, NASDAQ Magazine, and Women's Wear Daily and appears frequently on television and radio. He is the author of the national bestseller The Nordstrom Way.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Hammering Man, a 48-foot tall, seven-inch thick, black silhouette sculpture, stands resolutely, left leg in front of right leg, near the decorative marble-arched entrance to the Seattle Art Museum, the site of the annual shareholders' meeting of Amazon.com. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The Company, Not the River Feb. 10 2004
Format:Paperback
The most telling detail on Amazon in this book was on page 132: When publishers and authors asked Bezos why Amazon.com would publish negative reviews, he (said) Amazon.com "was taking a different approach, of trying to sell all books...the good, the bad, and the ugly...doing that, you actually have an obligation...to let truth loose.'"
Whichever publishers and authors those were, they epitomize the sort of thinking that a new business model sweeps away. When someone responds negatively to their product they seek to silence that person. Failing that, they repackage the same product. If that doesn't work, they rename the product. Then they present the product in a different size. Anything, abosolutely anything, but listen to the customer who gripes.
I don't think Spector grasps the depth of this change. When Amazon gives a forum to ordinary people to speak where previously only "professionals" could, that's as profound a shift as from monarchy to democracy. Giving equal space on the electronic bookshelf to an arcane book on geology and a convenience store bestseller is as revolutionary as Martin Luther's 95 theses getting equal billing with the pronouncements of the pope. In terms of sales, if I can buy what I want instead of just what the "professionals" want me to buy, I'm going to buy more.
Most of the other factors in Amazon's success have been done before: hiring smart people, working long hours, providing great customer service...but no other retailer ever had a selection larger than the Library of Congress. And no other retailer ever gave customers around the globe a public forum for feedback. I would have liked to have seen more on this unique aspect of Amazon in GET BIG FAST, and less of the sort of business school platitudes that make up the "Takeaways" sections at the end of each chapter.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A recitation of history, with no analysis Aug. 2 2003
Format:Paperback
While many who are reading this review are probably interested in the website story, this book is probably not the one to read. The author did not have access to Jeff Bezos and many other key players when writing this book, and the lack of first hand information shows.
It reads like a detailed, outsiders view of the history of the company. This happened, then that happened, then the site did this other thing. There is very little discussion of *why* these events and actions were important. And most importantly, very little context as to how the site changed the face of internet commerce.
This book is certainly not the definitive work on [site], which is still to be written. A better (and funnier) look at the internals of Amazon can be found in "21 Dog years - Doing time at Amazon.com".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amazon on Amazon Aug. 14 2003
Format:Paperback
I love the book. Though not bought at amazon. :< The story of how a not known internet company to a successful and real big one. How the company relied on open source and slowly as it get bigger used more commercial software. It describe how a man vision can come true by believing. Truly amazing book, I like one part of the book which says 'How do Amazon review this book for themselve?'. It's a good read
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hail Amazon.com? Aug. 21 2002
By ZAK
Format:Paperback
I don't know how to put it, was this book a never ending praise for Amazon.com or a non-biased account of what Amazon.com is about. I think i am more inclined towards the 'praise' part, why? Let me give one example, in the earlier part of the book, the author mentions that companies like Barns & Noble presented a big threat to Amazon.com, and from that point onwards he continues to portray B&N as the baddies. As if B&N were always bent upon destroying Amazon, and Jeff Bezos never once made a bad move, he never ever made one mistake. Come one admit it, if B&N is this big today, they must have done something right somewhere.
I wish that the author had taken the time to express his own thoughts somewhere in the 200+ pages.
This book would be a good read if you have literally no idea about Amazon.com, otherwise I would say, go out and look for a book which not only praises,criticezes but also expresses author's own opinions on the subject matter.
P.S. If you find something, please let me know too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE RISE OF A CORPORATE AND CULTURAL E-COMMERCE LEVIATHAN... July 24 2005
By Lawyeraau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an unauthorized account of an e-commerce leviathan's rise from obscurity. So, if one is looking for a detailed business module or a blue print of its technology, look elsewhere, as this is not the book for you. What this book offers is a very interesting, well-organized narrative on the early, heady days of Amazon.com. when it was just an upstart internet bookseller looking to make its mark big time, as well as a look at its founder, Jeff Bezos, painting a flattering and intriguing portrait of this now multi-billionaire.

For its founder, Jeff Bezos, it was not, however, just about the money. If that were the case, he would never have left his seven figure Wall Street job. For him, it was about the opportunity to be on the ground floor of a business that would change the retailing community forever. Jeff Bezos, a true visionary, chose to take that challenge, and in doing so, he would forever change the dot.com world and the retailing community. The author, a business reporter for various publications, delineates just how it was that Jeff Bezos did so.

This book offers up an interesting summary on how Jeff Bezos was able to take the online community by storm and upset the status quo. The author provides a biographical narrative on who Jeff Bezos is. It is grounded in the context of where he grew up, his schooling, as well as his early interests. It segues from his Ivy League educational underpinnings to his foray into the upper echelons of Wall Street, deriving the experience that he needed in order to take on the risky proposition of starting up his own dot.com company. It is clearly the story of a visionary and decision maker with heart.

The book succinctly details the rise of Amazon.com as an e-commerce force with which to be reckoned. It tracks its growth and change from an upstart, fledging, by- the-seat-of-its-pants-company to one that is now a staple of the popular lexicon. It superficially explores the philosophy of Jeff Bezos in terms of having his business "get big fast" and the technological, financial, and logistical hurdles that the business needed to overcome in order to do so. The author also keys in on the ability of Jeff Bezos to think out of the box, when so many business pundits said that what he sought to do could not be done.

The overall texture of this book is enhanced by Information provided by those with some insider knowledge, such as those who knew Jeff Bezos, those who worked with him in those early halcyon days, rival "brick and mortar" executives, business analysts, and financiers, among others. This book, which is a look at a visionary and his company, details how that visionary was able to transform his company into a veritable cultural phenomenon unto itself. Those who are devotees of Amazon will find this well-written book heady stuff, indeed, as it makes for absorbing reading.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A recitation of history, with no analysis Aug. 2 2003
By Tom Jordahl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While many who are reading this review are probably interested in the website story, this book is probably not the one to read. The author did not have access to Jeff Bezos and many other key players when writing this book, and the lack of first hand information shows.
It reads like a detailed, outsiders view of the history of the company. This happened, then that happened, then the site did this other thing. There is very little discussion of *why* these events and actions were important. And most importantly, very little context as to how the site changed the face of internet commerce.
This book is certainly not the definitive work on [site], which is still to be written. A better (and funnier) look at the internals of Amazon can be found in "21 Dog years - Doing time at Amazon.com".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Story July 10 2006
By Daniel M. Sharp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book really conveys the drama of the creation and building of Amazon.com by Jeff Bezos. Its really a biography of Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, through about 1999, ending before the .com crash.

There are a couple parts where the story drags, but generally, there was much more drama and interest than I expected. The story is skillfully told and the writing is clear, and after reading this book, I intend to look for the others that this author, Robert Spector, has written.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who wants to track the rise of Amazon.com. It was published too soon to provide the author with the opportunity to analyze the aftermath of the fantasticly overheated internet marketplace that led to the dot.com bust, but you can see how he examines all the elements from the perspective of 1999. Spector doesn't forecast the fall, but you can see all the excess and unmistakable signs of what is to come. I would love to see a Second Edition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Informative but Severely Outdated March 12 2011
By Youssef Ragab - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a very well told account of the first few years in amazon.com history. The book sets the stage by providing a brief biography of Jeff Bezos, the visionary master mind behind amazon.com, as well as a brief history of the internet and the book-business prior to amazon.com. The book then follows amazon.com from its conception in Jeff's mind and through the numerous challenges it had to get over up until its IPO and as it expanded beyond the book business. The book describes in gripping style the creativity, sweat and blood that was invested in making amazon.com what it is today. The book puts a lot of emphasis on amazon's business model and how it evolved over the years. I find this book an essential read for anyone seeking to launch an internet based startup or any startup for that matter! Truth be told, I find the story exceptionally motivational for just about anyone.

On the down side; the book is several years outdated and with a company as dynamic as amazon, this means a severely incomplete picture. In addition, the book doesn't pay enough attention to amazon's websites, their features and evolution over the years. Moreover, there is not even a cursory introduction to the technical breakthroughs (e.g. amazon's recommendation system) that make amazon.com such a revolutionary user experience.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are interesting in amazon's launch phase and the lessons it offers, this is the book you are after. If you are looking for a comprehensive history or the company or for deeper insights into its websites and their backing technoogies then I suggest you look elsewhere.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well-written and thoughtful, but pulls its punches Aug. 25 2005
By John Scholes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
More than 4 years after the dotcom crash, we should be getting some perspective on internet companies. Perhaps most fundamentally, what does it take to build a highly profitable internet company? Which companies are still overvalued? Are they 50% overvalued, 10x overvalued or what? Sadly, books offering such wisdom do not seem to be around. There are plenty of books about the disasters, but much more interesting would be an analysis of the handful of successes or maybe-successes.

In the absence of such a work, this is respectable. It is well-written and carefully researched. It was finished in 2000, when things were starting to fall, but still had a long way to go. So you had to be unusually perceptive to see things clearly. Spector does seem to have seen most of the issues, he just does not push them far enough.

There is much fascinating detail and much to learn, although you sometimes have to read between the lines. For example, Amazon's software should be an engineering case study in the difference between effective and efficient. It was incredibly inefficient, because the original designers (by their own admission, according to Spector) knew nothing about the finer points of relational databases, but it was effective - it rarely went down. Since Amazon was able to raise money on absurdly favourable terms, the fact that poor software design gave a huge hardware bill maybe did not matter much.

I guess I have found Amazon the single most puzzling, most confusing, and hence most interesting dotcom company. I have fairly consistently been wrong in my predictions. I thought it would be mainly a back-catalogue business (because that is what I mainly use it for); I was wrong - although it currently seems to be making renewed efforts to expand that segment. I thought its costs would be far lower than Barnes & Noble; I was wrong. I thought the attempt to sell everything was just a cynical move to fool investors; I was wrong, in one quarter electronics outsold media.

But the jury is still out on long term profitability etc, so this is an interesting source of information.
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