In Amazon.com Jeff Bezos built something the world had never seen. He created the most recognized brand name on the Internet and became one of the richest men in the world. He was recently named Time magazine's Person of the Year and was crowned "the king of cybercommerce."
Yet for all the success and all the media exposure, the inside story of Amazon.com has never really been told. In this revealing, unauthorized account of Amazon's astounding rise, Robert Spector, journalist and bestselling author, gives us the fastpaced, behind-the-scenes true story of the company's creation, its tumultuous present, and its uncertain future.
By talking to friends, confidants, early employees, rivals, publishing executives, stock analysts, and venture capitalists, Spector goes beyond the "official story"-the glib, polished, media-savvy statements that Bezos feeds to the press-and presents in unprecedented detail the real facts of the company's beginnings, innovations, business practices, and strategies, and its vision of the future. Further, he explains what the Amazon story means for conventional business, e-commerce, and ultimately the consumer.
Bezos's first employers tell how the experience he gained at their firms prepared him for creating Amazon.com. Early investors reveal the details of Bezos's initial pitch for money. Former company insiders divulge how painstakingly Amazon.com's internal systems were put together.
And the story becomes more compelling all the time as Amazon finds itself under attack by the formerly Internetchallenged behemoth retailers, by online startups trying to eat Bezos's lunch, and by impatient investors waiting for the company to turn a profit. (Amazon lost an incredible $720 million in 1999.)
Amazon.com's emergence as an e-commerce powerhouse has set off tremors around the world, jolting the "bricks and mortar" retailing giants, and forever changing the way everyone does business. But has Jeff Bezos finally run out of time? Will his great achievement be remembered as a footnote to the opening era of the Internet age? Or will this wily, overachieving self-described nerd triumph once again and surprise fans and foes alike?
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The tale of Amazon.com is well known to anyone who follows the stock market, the book business, the Internet explosion--heck, it's hard to imagine not knowing at least a piece of this extraordinary story. But few, it would seem, know the entire story, and it's these gaps that Robert Spector's Amazon.com: Get Big Fast attempts to fill (or at least the information available in early 2000, when the book was published). For example, those who know about Amazon.com's paradigm-shifting influence on the book business may not know it wasn't even the first online book retailer, or the second or the third. (It was preceded by clbooks.com, books.com, and wordsworth.com, the last of which beat Amazon.com to the Internet by almost two years.) Those who've heard quirky stories about Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos--for example, that he built his own desk out of a door, and that his mother bought the desk at an online charity auction in 1999 for $30,100--may not know that he was a studious overachiever from an early age. As a 12-year-old in Houston, he was even profiled in a book on gifted education in Texas. And those who marvel at the company's multibillion-dollar stock valuation may not know that it was broke and nearly out of business in the summer of '95.
Put it all together and you have a book that should be interesting to many different readers. As a pure business read, it certainly provides a blow-by-blow account of an important company's critical decisions. And anyone looking for a brief history of e-commerce will see how one idea--Bezos's realization in 1994 that Web usage was growing 2,300 percent a year--set the entire online retailing phenomenon in motion. If nothing else, that last fact should propel parents to pay very careful attention to their kids' math scores. Had Bezos, a summa cum laude Princeton grad in computer science, not realized the implications of exponential growth ... well, let's just say you wouldn't be reading this review right now. --Lou SchulerAbout the Author:
Robert Spector has reported on business for USA Today, UPI International, NASDAQ Magazine, and Women's Wear Daily and appears frequently on television and radio. He is the author of the national bestseller The Nordstrom Way.
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