To say that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, tends to be a polarizing figure is an understatement. An uncompromising, mercurial authoritarian in charge of one of the most dynamic companies operating today, he has no shortage of critics -- nor cultists. However unlike Steve Jobs, who was a tyrant in his own right, Bezos is not deified and whitewashed, meaning that a look at Bezos's company and personality must be an infinitely more interesting exercise than would Jobs's.
In his new book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezons and the Age of Amazon, Businessweek reporter Brad Stone sets out to do just that -- paint a picture of what makes Amazon, and therefore it's founder, tick. The company is so close to Bezos's own mind that illuminating one can shed a surprising amount of light on the other.
Of course, because of the nature of Amazon and Bezos, reviewers have different takes on the book. Is it sycophantic or sufficiently critical? Is it complete or lacking?
Below is a quick rundown of the various reviews for The Everything Store. All reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
The Manager -- Michael Moritz, Chairman of Sequoia Capital
Moritz, being in a position of power himself, is quick to sympathize with Bezos. He chatacterizes many of Bezos's actions as preventing mediocrity and compelling employees to reach higher. While he avoids the obvious Steve Jobs comparison, Moritz's review is packed with the same type of glowing prase (what some might see as whitewashing) for Bezos as captain and pilot of the good ship Amazon.
If Moritz wishes for Stone to have done something differently, it's only to further delve into Bezos's childhood, because he sees it clearly as the prototypical entrepreneur story, with value and lessons for others.
The Former Employee -- John Rossman, via Geekwire
Rossman, a junior executive who had once been viciously berated by Bezos, focuses unsurprisingly on Bezos's influence on the corporate culture. Rossman does not, however, excoriate Bezos for the culture he's created at Amazon. Instead, while acknowledging the company's warts, he focuses on what he see as their "secret sauce": Bezos's 14 leadership principles, which he wishes were covered in more detail.
The Institution -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
The Times' review covers much of the same ground as the other reivews here, but does bring in the interesting persepctive of where Amazon might go from here -- likely, the author says, to an antitrust claim from the US Government as well as to the consumable 3D printing business.
The Economist -- Matthew Yglesias, Slate
Yglesias's take may be the most refreshing -- a more stark view of the book and Amazon itself. Yglesias clearly does not romanticize Bezos as a manager, and doesn't forgive his temper because of how remarkable the company is. Yglesias also criticizes Stone for leaving out a look at what Amazon means to "the future of small business, commercial real estate, wages and working conditions, book publishing, or the American economy as a whole." Those looking for that insight, Yglesias insists, will be disappointed.
The interview -- Terry Gross, NPR's Fresh Air
Not a review, but a great long-format interview with author Brad Stone.