This is a fascinating look at the driven genius behind the online retail giant Amazon. I get the feeling that Bezos didn’t exactly fully cooperate in this biography but he didn’t exactly fight it either. Rather than a conventional biography this is more of a hybrid biography of the man Jeff Bezos and the company Amazon. It seems like it would be impossible to separate the two to any extent.
We have a ringside seat as Bezos uses hedge fund money and a state sales tax exemption to drive brick and mortar retail businesses in industry after industry out of existence. He then uses his huge volume to squeeze manufacturers to the point of bankruptcy or beyond.
Of course, those of us in the book business are most interested in how Amazon has upended the bookselling business and is in the process of using its enormous market share in ebooks to force the publishing companies into a subservient role. Amazon’s current battle with the publishing company Hachette makes this part of the book particularly timely. As you read about Amazon’s hardball tactics negotiating with publishers over discounts and pricing you can’t help but wonder what would happen if libraries should be seen by Bezos as interfering with his total domination of the book world? Would he tolerate them or would he come after libraries with the same competitive zeal that he attacked Zappos, Barnes & Noble, and Apple with?
The book makes it seem as if Bezos is more focused on becoming the world’s underlying online business platform and on projecting mankind into space, rather than tightly focused on only the book business that he started with. But it might be a good idea for librarians to read this book so that they will understand just what they might be up against if the Bezos’ crosshairs turn to them!
Reviewed by Bob Sibert