The Everything Store Summary

Brad Stone

The Everything Store

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The Everything Store Summary

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The Everything Store is a non-fiction book by Brad Stone, published in 2013. It chronicles the rise of Amazon.com, and became notorious when Mackenzie Bezos, wife of Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, gave the book a one-star review on the site.

The book begins with a prologue describing a book about a gifted young boy named Tim, Turning on Bright Minds. Tim was actually Jeff Bezos. Stone describes some of the effort he went into researching and writing the book, including some conversations with Jeff Bezos himself, and the curious nature of Amazon.com, a huge and quickly-growing company that is successful in every way except profits, of which it produces very little.

In 1991, Bezos was one of the youngest vice presidents at the private equity firm D.E. Shaw. Bezos displayed certain personality traits—he was precise and focused, and often wrote notes to himself in a small notebook he carried everywhere. Bezos was famed in the company for his constant talk about his idea for ‛the Everything Store.’ The owner of the firm, David Shaw, told Bezos that the newly-launched Internet was going to be incredibly important, and Bezos’ own research backed this up. He realized that launching an ‛everything’ store would be impractical at first, and so he made a list of possible products to sell, eventually settling on books for several reasons: they were commodities, there were only two main distributors, and there were more books in print than any retailer could possibly stock.

Bezos leaves D.E. Shaw after discussing his idea with Shaw and begins putting together the beginnings of Amazon. The Bezos family is slightly alarmed at the decision to walk away from a solid job with a great bonus, but are generally supportive of the idea, and they even give Bezos a significant start-up investment. Bezos also approaches other investors and venture capital firms and acquires investments from them. Bezos launches Amazon.com and dictates a total focus on customer satisfaction and happiness.

Amazon is instantly successful, and begins to grow very quickly along with the explosive ‛dot com’ bubble of the first flush of the Internet. Publishers tell Bezos that allowing customers to publicly review the books they bought would be a huge mistake, but Bezos ignores them, knowing that seeing the advice of other readers will improve the overall customer experience. When Bezos decides to set up a marketplace for people to sell used books (and eventually other used goods) on their own, he is again advised that this will be more trouble than it’s worth, but he does it because he knows it will give customers more choices.

Part of Bezos’ successful approach is long-term thinking. He invests in a huge underground clock project in Texas, which will run for 10,000 years, because he believes it offers a new perspective on time. Amazon begins to build a huge network of service and fulfillment centers, warehouses, and other infrastructure, which limits the amount of profit the company can make—in fact, for a very long time, Amazon makes no profit at all despite huge revenues. These losses worry investors, but Bezos believes that dominating the market will pay off.

When eBooks become an emerging market, Amazon actually lost money on every book sold to the tune of about $5 per book, which is an enormous loss in a business that runs on very slim profit margins. However, the artificially lower prices forced publishers to lower their eBook prices, and by then Amazon had claimed a dominant position in the market.
Amazon invests hundreds of millions of dollars in various start-ups at the height of the dot-com era. When the bubble bursts, Amazon loses an incredible amount of money. This shifts Bezos’ thinking away from investing in other people’s ideas to looking for solutions inside the existing company. He pushes for Amazon to build and sell its own products; developing such ideas only costs time. One of the fruits of this approach is the famous 1-click buying technology, which represents billions of dollars in revenue every year.

Many experts predicted Amazon wouldn’t survive the crash, but it manages to survive by doubling down on its expansion. Bezos focuses on innovation and new ideas, which leads to Amazon Prime, the Mechanical Turk, and the Fire tablet line. Shortly afterwards, Amazon ascends to its current status as a universally-used company that is ubiquitous in every market, including many (like cloud services) that aren’t customer-facing. Bezos is a fierce competitor, and is criticized for working to avoid paying corporate taxes and for using his company’s dominant position to ensure its continued success. He and his company are often considered to be bullies as a result.

Amazon is, in fact, unavoidable in the modern day; even if you wished to avoid using their services or products it is now almost impossible to do so.