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the Complete Review
the complete review - business

The Everything Store

Brad Stone

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To purchase The Everything Store

Title: The Everything Store
Author: Brad Stone
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2013
Length: 341 pages
Availability: The Everything Store - US
The Everything Store - UK
The Everything Store - Canada
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Vendere tutto - Italia
  • Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

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Our Assessment:

B : broad brushstrokes make for breezy, entertaining overview

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 16/11/2013 .
Financial Times . 25/10/2013 John Gapper
FAZ . 15/10/2013 Thomas Thiel
London Rev. of Books . 5/12/2013 Deborah Friedell
The NY Times . 29/10/2013 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. . 3/11/2013 Duff McDonald
San Francisco Chronicle . 8/11/2013 Caleb Garling
The Spectator . 30/11/2013 Martin Vander Weyer
Sunday Times . 20/10/2013 Bryan Appleyard
The Washington Post . 15/10/2013 Bethany McLean

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)here is little boardroom drama to liven up Mr Stone’s pages" - The Economist

  • "Brad Stone, a technology journalist who first covered Amazon in 2000, has done a remarkable job in The Everything Store, in a way that Bezos would appreciate -- by working very hard." - John Gapper, Financial Times

  • "Obwohl Stone wenig Raum lässt, Amazons Aufstieg blauäugig zu betrachten, deckt er nicht das gesamte Sündenregister auf und bleibt, besonders was die Datenverwertung betrifft, hinter dem Bekannten zurück. Am Ende erliegt er dem Charme des Arrivierten und nennt Amazon das „betörendste Unternehmen“ der Welt. Dass man Bezos alles zutrauen muss, ist das Fazit dieser Biographie. Es lässt sich nur als Warnung verstehen." - Thomas Thiel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Mr. Stone (...) tells this story of disruptive innovation with authority and verve, and lots of well-informed reporting. (...) The Everything Store does not examine in detail the fallout that Amazon’s rise has had on book publishing and on independent bookstores, but Mr. Stone does a nimble job of situating the company’s evolution within the wider retail landscape and within the technological revolution that was remaking the world at the turn of the millennium." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "Well, Bezos is the god in Stone’s story, and definitely one of the vengeful and punishing sort, at least when it comes to those who have worked for him, those he has competed against and those who thought, mistakenly, they were in some sort of partnership with him. (That leaves his family, whom we’re told he loves dearly.) Stone obviously admires his subject, but it’s hard to tell if he likes him." - Duff McDonald, The New York Times Book Review

  • "That's why I call the book a "chronology." We travel down a timeline and our cockpit is the Amazon offices. Authors, small-bookstore owners, a distribution center worker displaced by Bezos' famed robots, or even a FedEx guy are largely forgotten. (...) The Everything Store does offer absorbing management insights, and any businessperson will go to school on Bezos' well-documented negotiation tactics." - Caleb Garling, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "On the evidence of this book, Bezos is well up the uncool end of his own defined spectrum. (...) But there are no other big characters in The Everything Store, and as an extended exercise of business journalism the book is indigestibly laden with detail of one management initiative after another" - Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator

  • "(T)he meticulously reported book has plenty of gems for anyone who cares about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, entrepreneurship, leadership or just the lunacy it took to build a company in less than two decades that now employs almost 90,000 people and sold $61 billion worth of, well, almost everything last year. (...) The book’s weakness is that its central character and omnipresent force (...) is strangely absent." - Bethany McLean, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Everything Store is a history of online seller of (nearly) everything, Amazon.com (which, as author Brad Stone notes, only recently moved to calling and presenting itself simply as 'Amazon', dropping the '.com'), published before the company even hits the two-decade mark. It has been a story of explosive (though often also stumbling) growth, with Amazon staking out its position as the dominant online retailer in the United States, as well as a market-leader in areas such as cloud computing (Amazon Web Services) and e-readers (Kindle). (For all its growth and seeming ubiquity, note however that the most recent Forbes' ranking still only has it ranked 525th in its Global 2000 -- 43rd in market value and 131st in sales.)
       Stone notes that many other names were considered for the company (from the alphabetically-listed-results-friendly Aard.com to Relentless.com), but Amazon turned out to be a good fit -- and this company-history, too, reads like that massive, surging, hard-to-get-an-easy-fix-on river. Stone's book is more a casual aerial view than a wild and wet river-rafting ride along the currents, but provides a useful overview of the company and its driven leader, and an outline of many of its major moves (and missteps).
       From the beginning, Stone makes clear that Jeff Bezos is the driving force behind Amazon: it's his baby, and he is the one who has (and continues to) shape it. There's some biographical detail -- including the intriguing side-story of Bezos' biological father, who was apparently unaware of who his son had become (until Stone explained it to him) -- but this is hardly a Jeff Bezos biography. Stone sticks to little more than the essentials regarding the shaping of the man -- a few candids of the driven youngster, a little more than name-dropping tour of his employment history before he gets to D.E.Shaw (and not much more about his time there) -- and rarely gets very personal. Bezos as ideas-man and Bezos' management style come across well; Bezos the man -- beyond the guffawing laugh -- less so (indeed, hardly at all, despite his near-omnipresence in the narrative).
       Stone offers what often feels like a whirlwind tour of the company's rapid growth and shifting shapes. Numbers are only sparingly and inconsistently thrown around, giving some impression of the company's size and financials, but observations such as: "By the first weeks of 1996, revenues were growing 30 to 40 percent a month" are left standing way too much alone: without any context, continuity, or charts there's little insight into the hard numbers. (Yes, these numbers can all be found elsewhere by anyone who really wants to know, but Stone's casual, disconnected approach is, throughout, too magazine-article-like in its lack of (hard data) substance; that's his intention of course -- this is a book for the casual reader -- but a more solid foundation would have been helpful to all.)
       There are some interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of innovations from Amazon Sales Rank to Amazon's evolving approach to distribution. The compressed view is also fascinating in showing the rapid evolution of the online retailing world -- from Amazon's shift from book-retailer to 'everything store' to the stunning failure of traditional retailers in adapting to the online world. Bezos' choice of books to start his company with was an excellent one, given the nature of the business -- and it's amusing to see how difficult it was to go into some of the other product-lines, such as the very seasonal toy business.
       Fascinating, too, are the examples of Bezos playing very hardball, whether with publishers or, in 2002, with UPS, or in taking on (in order to take over) a rival like Diapers.com. Some of these also allow Stone to indulge in his magazine-writing-style to the fullest, making for good examples of the book's tone:

But by then, Bezos's Khrushchev-like willingness to take the e-commerce equivalent of the thermonuclear option in the diaper price war made Quidsi worried that it would be exposed and vulnerable if something went wrong during the consummation of a shotgun marriage to Walmart.
       Stone does cover some of Amazon's state-sales-tax-collecting avoidance efforts reasonably well -- noting that it played a major role in many decisions, beginning with basing the company in Washington state, and that employee-activity (and even trips !) were closely monitored so as not to perhaps fall foul of legal requirements -- but, for example, only briefly notes Amazon's impressive tax-avoidance schemes in Europe (and the resulting bad PR).
       The Everything Store offers some good product- and service-development snapshots, such as the move into e-readers and e-books, but throughout the book is very surface-oriented, with relatively little depth. One gets an impression of Bezos' management style and how he approaches competition and innovation, but little here is beyond the most casual of case-studies. Ultimately, The Everything Store remains introductory-level, a survey story that feels like a very long magazine article. It's informative, and good reading, and in its overview of these past twenty years (and some of the rapid changes we've seen, online and off) offers a useful sort of larger picture, but there's not much insight here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 November 2013

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The Everything Store: Reviews: Amazon.com: Brad Stone: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Brad Stone is an American journalist.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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