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One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com [Audio CD]

Richard L. Brandt , To be announced
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 29.95 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Oct. 27 2011
Much of Amazon’s success has to do with CEO and founder Jeff Bezos’ business strategy and unique combination of character traits. Using interviews with Amazon employees, competitors, and observers, Richard Brandt offers the key to Bezos’ success.


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Review

“Richard Brandt compellingly profiles one of the greatest Internet executives of the era.”
Stephen Leeb, author of The Oil Factor and Red Alert

“Brandt is an award-winning magazine writer and he has the classic U.S. journalist’s approach—meticulously researched and with breathless, pithy commentary . . . a good story well told. If you want to understand the Bezos phenomenon, this is an easy and efficient way to do it—just like shopping on Amazon.”
—Management Today
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard L. Brandt is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about Silicon Valley for more than two decades. He is well known throughout the technology community as a former correspondent for BusinessWeek, where he won a National Magazine Award. He lives in San Francisco. Visit richardbrandt.com
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is not a comprehensive biography such as the one of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson. Rather, it is an extended profile in which Richard Brandt provides a wealth of biographical information relevant to what its subtitle correctly indicates: "Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon.com." As for the title, it refers to patented software system (I-ware) written mostly by Paul Hartman, a programmer who joined Amazon in 1997. Bezos was determined that customers would have "something to make the ordering system frictionless...They should be able to click on one thing, and it's done." Therein lies one of the keys to the great success Amazon continues to achieve. As Brandt explains, "Jeff Bezos will do anything he can think of to make the process of using Amazon.com easier."

In this 191-page book (plus 10 pages of annotated notes), Brandt demonstrates the genius of selection and concision previously on display in his extended profile of the "Google Boys" in Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain. Most readers will learn as much as they want to know - and probably need to know - about how and why Amazon.com was first envisioned and then created by a remarkable entrepreneur whose stepfather fled from Cuba after Castro seized control, who spent much of his childhood on a ranch in Texas (fixing tractors and castrating cattle was "what I considered to be an idyllic childhood") and later graduated from Princeton, who once hoped to become an astronaut, and who left a lucrative position and promising career in D.E. Shaw, "the most technologically sophisticated" firm on Wall Street, according to Fortune magazine at that time) and relocated to Seattle in 1994 with his wife MacKenzie, determined to start a company that sold books online.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  106 reviews
84 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall a good book, but falls short on depth Oct. 31 2011
By FreeSpirit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I guess it really depends on how much you already know about Jeff Bezos and the history of Amazon - that will probably determine whether you enjoy the book, IMHO. I knew very little, so I got a good, quick oversight into Jeff Bezos as a businessman, and into Amazon's early days. It discusses his strengths and questions his weaknesses as a business leader quite extensively. The traits that made him successful are probably his acute decision making abilities (why he chose books instead of CDs at first, why Seattle over CA, etc), long-term perspective, and a unique ability to execute decisions to precision.

Both sides of Amazon's book business - customers who want lower prices, and publishers who want to keep authors in business, are discussed at length. Amazon may have been portrayed, willingly or unwillingly, in a poor light here. I think Amazon is doing what is right by their customers and what any business would do in order to keep a competitive edge in the marketplace. It's a free market economy and any company is welcome to step in and help publishers get a higher price if they are able to do so - Amazon is not stopping them. There are two sides to the debate, both sides with their own merits, but I think the author spends more time on Amazon's ruthless negotiations with publication houses.

While there is lengthy discussion about the early days of Amazon, the ongoing battles with publishers, and Blue Origin, not much has been discussed about the current market Amazon is operating in and its projected path forward. Cloud computing, for example, is discussed only fleetingly.

The book reveals nothing new in itself, except maybe the early years of Bezos that I wasn't familiar with. If you're reading about the history of Amazon for the first time or know little about the subject, this book is probably a great starting point because it puts together bits and pieces of information that are fragmented all over the internet. However, the book seems to lack thoughtful analysis or insight into the company that would blow readers away. It's cut and dry from that perspective. Reading it on the Kindle, I didn't keep track of when the book would end, but when I realized that it had ended, I was puzzled, it felt incomplete. Sort of like eating an appetizer and realizing that that is it, there is no main course on the way.
70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and Lazily Written Jan. 7 2012
By Michael S. Ellman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I worked at Amazon for several years and have quite a lot of respect for the company and Bezos. This book doesn't do either justice. It's a tiny, large-margin book that has hardly anything you couldn't find by looking over a handful of shallow old Time magazine articles. Only a few people are interviewed, and hardly any information is given about what it's really like being in the company. The first thing I did when I got the book was to look in the index for the names of influential people I knew. Almost none of them was mentioned. Instead, the book quotes a couple early contributors repeatedly and then rehashes well-known stories. Even the quotes from the couple people I mentioned are so lacking in insight that I wonder whether they come from quickly written e-mails responses instead of face-to-face interviews. This reads to me like something rattled off in a week with hardly any research. I want to compare it to 'In the Plex' which is a terrific book about Google. The author of that book spent a huge amount of time in the company, had access to numerous important past and present employees, and gave you a great sense for Google's history and what it's like to work there. 'One Click' is a lazily written book that offers no insights, no new information, and pretty bad writing. I hope someone does a better job with this story someday.
56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a Bio. Very high level, lightly insightful book Oct. 29 2011
By A Medlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book came recommended along side Isaacson's Steve Jobs. This is NOT, by any means, a biography, or ANYWHERE CLOSE to the level of insight Isaacson puts in to his book. The only reason this book receives 2 stars, and not 1, is that it does not claim to be a bio.

It is, at best, a high level overview of 'stuff' around the growth of Amazon.com. It jumps back and forth, and doesn't provide any in-depth analysis or research. In addition, it seems that the book is based completely on secondary research. It doesn't appear that any more than a handful of people directly participated in any form of primary research for the book, and pretty much all the quotes by Bezos were from the public domain.

If the author was talking about the "rise of Amazon.com", a more 'timeline'-based approach would have been good to have. The book jumps around a fair bit, and really doesn't get into anything in any level of detail.

To sum this book - "Bezos is ambitious. He started with books. He made a loss. The markets crashed. He focused on profits. He got into other areas. He invested in technology. He's a geek. His quarterly earnings are as follows (some basic numbers), he loves space travel." That's pretty much it, IMO. Since I got it from the Kindle Store, I cannot even resell it...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Interesting, but Overly Shallow Jan. 17 2012
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
'One Click' provides background on Amazon's early history; unfortunately, it is not nearly complete enough to qualify as a 'good history.'

Jeff Bezos was a good student in high school, and graduated from Princeton with majors in electrical engineering and computer science. When selecting a business to start he considered books ($19 billion wold in 1994, vs. only $7 billion in software, of which $2 billion was from Microsoft - a company that probably wouldn't allow much profits. Barnes and Nobles, and Borders held 25% of the book business - their stores held a maximum of 175,000 titles. Small bookstores held 21% of the market, and the rest were sold by supermarkets, etc. There are two major book distributors, each with warehouses holding about 400,000 titles.

Bezos liked the name 'Amazon' - is early in the alphabet, easy to spell, and represented a mighty river. He began with less than $200,000 - mostly funds from his relatives. He chose Oracle's database management system, along with free UNIX and AT&T's data-base-management software. His general strategy was to be conservative in estimating shipping dates so as to not disappoint. It took about a year to create a web site; Amazon launched 7/95, and started with about 6 orders/day. Fortunately, neither Barnes and Noble nor Borders had web sites at the time. By October, volume was up to 100 sales/day, and in less than a year, 100/hour. It's 1997 IPO was valued at $429 million. (It now is about $82 billion.)

Early Amazon customer service representatives were given options for 100 shares after three years. The best could answer 12 emails/minute, those dropping below 7 were often fired. Prior to this they took a three-week course to learn how everything worked. My guess is that very few, if any, lasted the three years. Another 'factoid' - in 1998, Amazon charged publishers $10,000 to feature books on its home page under headings such as 'New and Notable.' It's '1-Click Ordering' makes it easy for customers to buy (I've also found that it automatically selects an extra cost delivery option - one has to be wary.) Regardless, the '1-click' is patented, much to the chagrin of many who don't believe a process should be patentable.

Negative product reviews are allowed - they provide credibility for reviews in general. Other site features include 'Look Inside the Book,' and 'Search Inside the Book.'

Amazon spent $600 million on advertising in 2009. Book distributors have tried cutting Amazon (middleman) out, but failed because it already had strong presence in the market. The average bookstore has 2.7 inventory turns/year, vs. 24 for Amazon in 1998. (It fell to 2.9 in early 2000, and reportedly is now back to about 18X.) One of the book distributors tried buying Barnes and Noble - failed.

Bezos hired a number of WalMart distribution managers, and WalMart sued. Bezos defended his actions by citing book accounts of Sam Walton himself pirating employees much earlier. Bezos emphasized building market share instead of profits in its early years. Added CDs in 1998, and also went international. In 1999 lost $720 million, and another $1.4 billion in 2000. Layoffs. Kindle came in 2007. Now Amazon is pursuing cloud computing as a sideline business - renting out spare computer capacity.

Recent Amazon earnings are minimal, and it trades at a 95X P/E ratio (78X estimated). Even at a 'normalized' profit of $1 billion/year, its profits are unimpressive - about 6% ROA. 'One-Click' provides no insights on why.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mehh Oct. 23 2013
By The_brobot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
While I did find this book educational (at the lowest form of the word mind you), I can't say I found it very insightful. Most of the facts and anecdotes seem to be pulled from public sources like Wikipedia and YouTube with little to no additions by the author. Talented biographers such as Walter Isaacson inject at least some level of commentary into the facts and unfortunately that is absent here. On top of this, the prose is written in a lazy and somewhat amateurish style.

Bottom line: You can skip this book and do a few simple Google searches and learn the same exact things.
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