'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.