The Perfect Store: Inside eBay

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9780316164931: The Perfect Store: Inside eBay

In this engaging chronicle of one of the most stunning success stories in American business history, Cohen takes readers inside eBay the corporation, revealing the many surprising ways in which eBay's "virtual marketplace" has changed the face of American business and the American cultural landscape.

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Review:

In the short but wild history of the Internet, few companies have developed such an ideal approach to utilizing the uniqueness of the medium for business as eBay--hence the title of Adam Cohen's colorful and insightful corporate biography The Perfect Store. Cohen, chief technology writer for Time magazine before joining The New York Times' editorial board, is the only journalist to receive complete cooperation from the company for such a project, and the combination of access and experience leads to a well-researched and well-written tale capturing the essence of this online auction-house phenomenon. In the process, Cohen reveals how the pioneering site first developed into a vibrant virtual community, then a cultural icon and a model for Web-based commerce that reported revenue of $749 million in 2001.

From its beginnings as a hobby site on a Silicon Valley PC, to its maturation as a real company under the burgeoning fiscal pressures of cyberspace, to its present status as one of the few original e-business practitioners to survive the dot.com implosion, eBay has always been part of the crowd while managing to stand out from it. Cohen helps us understand why by taking us inside the heads of major players like Pierre Omidyar, the cofounder who imbued his site with a Libertarian philosophy responsible for its heart and soul, and Meg Whitman, the seasoned manager who brought business savvy and a Harvard MBA to its roller-coaster world. What helps make the book so readable and informative, though, are Cohen's accompanying observations of the many other people and events that also helped eBay develop its trademark direction and characteristic personality: the company that formulated its distinctive logo, the Kansas City clothing-iron collectors whose pastime was transformed by the upstart Web site, the quirky listings that generated controversy (and publicity) like the one in 1999 for a "fully functional kidney," even detractors who decry its big-business underpinnings. Fans of the site, along with students of the online world in general, will find Cohen's account both instructive and enjoyable. --Howard Rothman

About the Author:

Adam Cohen is on the editorial board of the New York Times. Previously, he was chief technology writer for Time magazine. He is the co-author of American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley--His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. He lives in New York City.

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