Monday, November 28, 2011

One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com

Three people come upon a magnificent tree. The carpenter sees lumber for a cabin. The poet is inspired to transform the tree into a metaphor for the meaning of life. The entrepreneur sees that the rarity of this tree could possibly become a tourist attraction... or maybe pieces of the tree could be polished and engraved for added value and sold at an immense profit for his family.

All this to say, in the early nineties when entrepreneur Jeff Bezos discovered the Internet, he became laser focused and seems to have made it a life mission to profit from an Internet business. At the very same time I also became intrigued by the Internet, but with a different viewpoint. I became fascinated by the idea that I could find readers for my unpublished stories. It also gave me a subject to write about.

For business writer Richard L. Brandt, the Internet has also given him plenty to write about these past two decades. A former correspondent for BusinessWeek and award-winning journalist, Brandt has no doubt enjoyed his west coast digs in the vicinity of Silicon Valley, where much of the action has been. Author of The Google Guys, an inside like at the brains behind Google, he has just released One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com.

Although I've written several times how I love my Kindle, there's still something to be said for the feel of a book in your hands, especially a well conceived volume like One Click. It's compact, has a good looking cover, and is just the right size for easy toting about the house. I like the clean design of the cover art… and the design of the pages as they are laid out. And it deals with a topic dear to my heart…. Amazon.com.

What I like about biographies and business success stories is that they so often contain insights which can then be applied to your own businesses. Since most of us in one way or another work for a business, a book like this can increase our value for the companies that employ us. Brandt's book is no exception to this rule.

As is often the case, I like reading reviews of the books I am about to read, one of the great features of Amazon.com. Brandt notes that Bezos' goal with his online bookstore was to make it an enjoyable experience. "People will gladly spend hours in a bookstore, so you have to make the shopping experience fun and engaging." Nearly every feature of Amazon.com is designed to fulfill this aim.

Interestingly enough, many of the reviews of Brandt's book are less than stellar. Here's an example...
First, the good news: One Click is an easy to read and well organized account of Jeff Bezos and his piloting of Amazon.com's extraordinary success. The bad news is that One Click does very little digging below the surface.

To me this dig has an easy comeback. How deep is deep enough? I mean, one can research ad nauseum and produce a tedious tome that no one will have time to digest.

I half considered using the whole of this column to write rebuttals to the reviewers, but then again, to each his own. Some readers maybe knew a lot more of Jeff Bezos' story and were expecting more. Being somewhat out of that loop I found the overview of Bezos' early career and commitment to a vision of customer satisfaction to be informative, and presented in a manner that kept me easily moving forward.

My only real criticism of the book comes in the first chapter where Brandt starts early on with some negatives about the company, citing an article titled "How I 'Escaped' From Amazon.cult" by a Richard Howard. I wondered this was setting the tone for a book with more scathing objectives that merely informing. I then wondered if the publisher pushed this to the front in order to be more controversial and snatch more readers. Maybe the author was simply stating by the early jabs that he was an objective reporter and not a fawning follower.

Whatever impression one has of Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com after reading One Click, one has to be impressed by the company's Mission Statement: "To be Earth's most customer-centric company where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online."

In summary, two people follow the Amazon.com story for a portion of their lives. One decides to write a book about this company, the other decides to publish his books by means of this company. Same magnificent tree, two different kinds of story. Thank you to Richard L. Brandt for using his skills to bring us this concise snapshot overview.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Locally, Amazon Opened a giant Warehouse/factory . They made front page news a couple months ago, because the employees were complaining of inhumane conditions like, extreme heat ( in the summer) and not enough ventilation. Some of the discription reminded me of Charlie Chaplins- Modern times film.
It seems that Every Giant successful buisness, comes under Attack. But I guess theres a dichotamy , where the sucessful buisnesses put their customers first, and sometimes that's at the expense of their employees, or so it seems.But then again, when its a thriving buisness in this Sour economy , perhaps those employees ought to be grateful they have a job (?) Of course that IS one of the complaints...that because of the lousy economy they feel trapped, and feel taken advantage of.

ENNYMAN said...

I guess this is not the first I've heard something like that. Hopefully temporary discomforts? Not good if chronic, and why would a company want its employees unhappy and uncomfortable. No answer required.