Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year is...

And the envelope, please. Cue drumroll. The winner of The Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for 2013 is The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown), by Brad Stone.

I'd love to tell you all about the book, but I haven't read it. In fact, I passed it over in publisher's catalog
even though it was billed as "the definitive story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world, and of its driven, brilliant founder, Jeff Bezos," and even though it was based on "unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon." 

The reason I passed on the book was that Stone, a senior reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and a terrific writer, didn't have access to he who laughs loudest. To date, Jeff Bezos has refused participate in any book about Amazon, claiming that it is too soon to tell the story.

I've always thought this was a silly decision on Bezos's part. After all, we're not talking about Snapchat here: Amazon hauled in $60 billion in revenue in 2012 and is one of the planet's leading retailers. But maybe it's not as silly as it seems on the surface. Amazon did manage to lose $39 million on that $60 billion. It's also likely that Bezos's story is a long way from over (unlike Steve Jobs, whose cooperation with Walter Isaacson in the final year or so of his life yielded an amazing biography that was shortlisted by FT/Goldman last year and probably would have won the top prize in this year's not-quite-as-distinguished field).  

In any case, as "unprecedented" as Stone's access was, the head honcho himself is missing. As MacKenzie Bezos pointed out in her one-star Amazon review of the book, this forced Stone to make educated guesses as to what was going in her husband's mind (which he seems to have felt comfortable doing). So I'm not sure what distinguishes The Everything Store from the other books that have been written about a guy whose every move is already reported by the business press--or how we can justify calling it definitive. 

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