Considering Starbucks was founded in 1971 and only began to take over the world in the early 1990s, there are a remarkable number of books about the company – enough for its own mini-genre of business-inspired literature, Starbooks, if you will.
Never mind that retailers like Harrod's (founded in 1834) has been around for decades – the morning cup of joe is an essential part of our modern lifestyle and caffeine-fuelled authors have been smelling the coffee and cashing in on the Starbucks phenomenon - how we built Starbucks, how your business can be like Starbucks, how Starbucks changed my life, what it's like to work for Starbucks, and so on and so on.
In late 2007, Starbucks proved it's not entirely impervious -the company announced plans to close under-performing stores and ONLY open 1,175 stores in 2008 – a drop of 34% from the previous year. Surrounded by eager imitators and cut-price competitors, Starbucks was forced to reassess its business – moving away from food and back to its core market of 'lifestyle' coffees, and experimenting with cheaper $1 sized offerings in its hometown of Seattle.
Despite slowing growth, the company's cultural mark has been stamped firmly on western culture. Quite simply, there are Starbucks stores everywhere. I go past five on the 10km drive to work without going anywhere near the downtown district of the smallish North American city that I call home. There are another four coffee shops from rival chains along the way. These stores are a drop in the frappuccino – Starbucks has more than 15,000 outlets in 42 countries.
A bestselling 'Starbook' on AbeBooks has been How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill. It was published in September 2007 and climbed solidly to the top of the list.
Michael Gates Gill was the high level advertising executive whose life fell apart – his business, his marriage and health all failed. He turns to a run-of-the-mill Starbucks in New York and gets his life together serving coffee, learning life lessons along the way. Could the author have turned his life around working in McDonalds, or a Wal-Mart, or an independent bookstore, or any other kind of shop? Perhaps, but visiting Starbucks is ingrained in so many of our daily schedules that the book has clearly captured the imagination. How ironic that a clapped out corporate executive should find refuge in..... a corporation?
Clearly, the book has become a PR gift for Starbucks which has been criticized for 1) squeezing out independent retailers by spreading like poison ivy, 2) ripping off third world coffee growers, 3) overcharging consumers for a cheaply sourced product, 4) exploiting its staff, 5) and becoming the poster child of the global economy. (Just go to Google and look for Starbucks' hate sites to get a feel for the online backlash.)
Howard Schultz is the chairman and CEO of Starbucks, and has a business book to his name - Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time was published in 1999. Although much has happened since, the book details the company's international expansion of the 1990s – the period where Starbucks' outlets cropped up on every street corner from Auckland to Zurich and everywhere in between.
Another key Starbuck bigwig has written a book - It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar. Dave Olsen's Starbucks Passion for Coffee is a third book from an executive but this one goes into the mechanics of brewing coffee for connoisseurs and also includes recipes.
Another Starbook, Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture by Taylor Clark takes another good look into the Starbucks' juggernaut. Clark is no fan – he argues that the coffee has gone bad and Starbucks has a drone culture for its staff but he still admires what the company has achieved in the blink of an eye.
Grande Expectations: A Year in the Life of Starbucks by financial journalist Karen Blumenthal looks at the company from Wall Street's perspective. Starbucks went public in 1992 when its portfolio of stores was in three figures – what a great investment that would have been?
But hang on – we shouldn't be surprised that Starbucks has inspired a mini-genre of books. The company's name comes from Captain Ahab's first mate in Moby Dick. You will also find Starbucks coffee shops inside bookstores. Readers love to read while sipping their Starbucks latte.
Books about coffee