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Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention…
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Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire (edition 2021)

by Brad Stone (Author)

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Member:aateam
Title:Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire
Authors:Brad Stone (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2021), 496 pages
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Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire by Brad Stone

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Updates Stone’s previous book from the last ten years or so, including a bit on the acceleration of Amazon’s dominance wrought by the pandemic. Some interesting tidbits, including about Bezos’s apparently genuine commitment to the independence of the Washington Post. He did have some ideas: he wondered whether the paper would need so many editors if it hired great writers. In order to get him off this tack, some editors took to sending them their highest-profile reporters’ unedited copy, and eventually he stopped pushing the idea, though Amazon denied that Bezos read the emails. Consistent with his hostility to unions, Bezos did ditch the perfectly stable pension fund for new employees, replacing it with 401(k)s. Stone also reports on Amazon’s struggles with video as it made deals with Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein, while the video business was headed by a guy who also allegedly mistreated women.

Stone provides further confirmation that Amazon employees did peek at third-party sellers’ data to give their house brands competitive advantages, despite Amazon’s official denials that this occurred. Some of this seems like a good idea. “For example, customer reviews in the all-important category of dog poop bags indicated regular confusion about which end of the bag opened. So the Amazon Basics version included a blue arrow and the words ‘open this end.’” Amazon defends this kind of data analysis as being open to anyone who cared to do it, and many of the house brands don’t seem to be harming established brands, but several house brand managers admitted to exploiting something a lot harder to compete with: access to prominence in Amazon search results. When they introduced a new brand, Amazon brand managers could give it an initial “relevancy score” matched to that of an established product, making it appear at the top of search results instead of “starting on the unseen last page with other new brands.” Amazon officially denies this, but I have no doubt that Stone’s anonymous informants told the truth.

Amazon’s reputation for predation certainly doesn’t get better from this book overall. One telling story involves a high level employee departing for Target. “Here was one of the more naked hypocrisies at Amazon, which aggressively poached employees from competitors but considered it an act of absolute treachery when an executive left for a rival.” Only expensive lawyers eventually eased the executive’s slowed-down transition. ( )
  rivkat | Jul 23, 2021 |
I had read Brad Stone's other books and had especially enjoyed 'The Everything Store'. In light of the recent news about Bezos and Amazon, etc. it seemed like it might be an enjoyable read to catch up from wherever Stone had left off and the very beginnings of Amazon.

So don't expect a recounting of the very beginnings of Amazon, but more of the recent developments such as the COVID pandemic, the development of Alexa, the acquisition of Whole Foods, etc. It was mildly interesting but at the same time it also felt like a recounting a person could find via news articles and other similar long reads. And don't expect to find too much about Bezos's personal life (it is covered but this also isn't really about him the person but rather Amazon the entity, even if you think they are the one and the same).

Overall, I think I'll be skipping Stone's books from now on. Maybe I measured the rest of his work after 'The Everything Store' based off of that standard but as mentioned above, this seemed like a rehash of many articles that you can find via Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal and similar publications. If you're really into Amazon, are a competitor and want more of a bird's eye view of the company in more recent years or are looking for information specific to what Stone covers, this might be for you.

For a lay person, this might not be a bad library borrow, especially if you read it right after 'The Everything Store'. If you're doing research about Amazon, specific Amazon products, specific issues that Stone covers in this book, then this might not be a bad purchase.

Library was best for me. ( )
  HoldMyBook | May 29, 2021 |
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