Businessweek's Amazon exposé promises more than it delivers

The Bloomberg magazine has printed a lengthy extract from a new book by senior reporter Brad Stone.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

You can bet all the Washington Post staff will be reading this edition of Businessweek to figure out the office politics for shmoozing their new boss. The current issue of Businessweek features an excerpt from senior reporter Brad Stone's new book: "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

The cover art promises a new explosive account that changes "everything you know about Jeff Bezos." We'll see about that, just 12 paragraphs in we read this:

Bezos rarely speaks at conferences and gives interviews only to publicize new products, such as the latest Kindle Fire. He declined to comment on this account, saying that it’s “too early” for a reflective look at Amazon’s history, though he approved many interviews with friends, family, and senior Amazon executives.

Jeff Bezos, as told by his "friends, family, and senior Amazon executives" isn't going to yield much beyond how wonderful he is:

The one unguarded thing about Bezos is his laugh—a pulsing, mirthful bray that he leans into while craning his neck back. He unleashes it often, even when nothing is obviously funny to anyone else.

From a former senior exec: "He had this unbelievable ability to be incredibly intelligent about things he had nothing to do with, and he was totally ruthless about communicating it."

An employee: "You are learning constantly, and the pace of innovation is thrilling."

A senior VP: "He learned things from each of us who had expertise and incorporated the best pieces into his mental model."

Mr. Bezos never comes into full view — at least not in this extract. However, there are interesting tidbits I such as:

His father was a unicyclist performer in the circus but did not raise his son because the marriage broke up very early and he lost touch with the family. His father was tracked down by Brad Stone who revealed that his son is Jeff Bezos, which came as a shock.

Months later his father decided to try to contact his son for the first time in decades. I can't imagine this was welcomed by Jeff Bezos who deliberately wanted to have nothing to do with his biological father (similar to Steve Jobs).

Amazon and its founder are certainly worthwhile subjects but if this excerpt represents the rest of the book — there might not be too much more to say about both entities — they both do their jobs well. Brad Stone's talent as a good reporter can't make up for the dull facts of a story.

"Explosive new account." Really Businessweek? More like a burp. But maybe the rest of the book has the good stuff.

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