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One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com Audio CD – Oct 27 2011
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Richard Brandt compellingly profiles one of the great internet executives of the era -- Stephen Leeb, Author Of The Oil Factor And Red Alert Meticulously researched and with breathless, pithy commentary. 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 Brandt is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about Silicone Valley for more than twenty years. A former correspondent for Business Week, he is the author of the blog Entrepreneur Watch, Capital Instincts: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier, and Athlete and Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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...
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.
Bottom line: You can skip this book and do a few simple Google searches and learn the same exact things.
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