BOOK REVIEW: Amazon “One Click” by Richard L. Brandt (2012)

This book is an interesting and impartial look at the development of Amazon. Unfortunately, it gets off to a terrible start. Any 9th Grader will have heard a hundred times that a good essay begins with a clear and dynamic start and finishes with a punchy conclusion. What a pity that Mr. Brandt seems to have forgotten this advice. The book is actually a very enjoyable read with a lot of information about Amazon. It is you really want to have a good impression of it, you should skip the first and last chapters.

Key words

Amazon, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, Strategy, leadership, market analysis, market development, entrepreneurship, start-up company, market leadership, revenue growth, profitability, sustainable growth.

Summary

Bezos’ career is outlined from his time at Princeton (he graduated with a GPA of 4.2!) and then went to work on Wall Street. Bezos was unlike most of the current batch of globally known entrepreneurs. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page all began their businesses from their hobbies or passions. Bezos however, analysed the market and decided that selling books was a great opportunity for an internet business. This sounds so simple now, but many have predicted over the years the failure of the company. Just taking on the mighty Barnes and Nobles and Borders was courageous in itself. In 1997 Barron’s magazine called the company Amazon.bomb and stated why its strategic position was impossible to defend.

The book is an interesting read for any student that wants to get an idea of the strategy of Amazon. Unlike a lot of writers, Mr. Brandt resists the temptation to get hooked on his subject. This is no hagiography of Bezos’ management style. This gives the aspect of a detached essay. The accusations concerning the monopoly power Amazon now has are duly discussed. He gives examples such as Bezos’ willingness to remove the “Buy” button from books if he was in dispute with the editor.

He is also very critical of the cult aspect of the corporate culture.  Customer service workers were expected to answer up to 12 emails per minute. If they fell below 7 they were fired. The 1 Click patent and its relative merits are as discussed in detail. One law journal described it as “probably the most memorable example of an unoriginal software-patent.”

The reader also gets plenty of figures concerning Amazon. The result of this is nicely summed up in the following quote:

In 2010, Amazon’s fourth-quarter revenues grew 36 percent to $12.95 billion, while profits were up 8 percent to $416 million. In that same time period, Barnes & Noble’s revenues increased just 7 percent, to $2.3 billion, while its profit fell 25 percent to $61 million. Borders reported a decline in revenues of nearly 18 percent, to $471 million for its third quarter in 2010 (which ended in November) and a loss of $74 million, nearly double its loss from the year earlier.

In 1998, Bezos had declared that Amazon was no competition for classic bookstores. Borders filed for bankruptcy in February 2011. It is a good business lesson to learn. The man that flatters you and tell you that you have nothing to fear from him may be the one that bring you down!

    

Interesting quotes from the book:

In 1994, 513 million copies of books were sold, and 17 best sellers sold over one million copies. And on average, American consumers spent $79 per person on books in 1994, compared to $56 per person on recorded music. There were two large bookstore chains, Barnes & Noble and Borders Group, with a combined market share of 25 percent.

In July 1997, Forrester Research President George F. Colony, a respected technology analyst and commentator, said, “Amazon’s position is indefensible. They have some nice custom-built software, but that’s about all they’ve got. They don’t have a monopoly over the books, and their technology can be duplicated in six months. But Barron’s magazine called the company Amazon.bomb.

Jeff Bezos: “We know that if we can keep our competitors focused on us, while we stay focused on the customer, that ultimately we’ll turn out all right,”

A sense of urgency becomes your most valuable asset

By 1998 he was discounting four hundred thousand bestselling titles and his customer base had grown to 3.1 million people using the site. 

 A sense of urgency becomes your most valuable asset.

 Jeff’s philosophy was to hire people with the most talent rather than the most experience. The best people are those who don’t know that something ‘can’t be done’

 The claim of a million books was an exaggeration; the distributors had only about 300,000 books in stock at any one time.

 Bezos would try to find the out-of-print books, and sometimes managed to do so from publishers or other bookstores, a feature that gave Amazon a reputation early on as an amazing place to find books.

 “We are not profitable,” he told The New York Times in January 1997. “We could be. It would be the easiest thing in the world to be profitable. It would also be the dumbest.

In December 1999, Bezos was named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’

In November 1999, Barron’s magazine named Amazon (along with Microsoft) the most overvalued stock on the market. In December 1999, Bezos was named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’. 

 Bezos had a big advantage: With access to virtually every publisher in the world, he could offer ninety thousand e-books when the Kindle was first released in 2007.

 Market researchers estimate that Amazon sells three out of every four e-books sold.

Bezos was well prepared before the Kindle was first launched in 2007

                                                                                                                                                        

 
 
 
 
 

See also:

   

Other Book Reviews

Book Review: One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt

Blog Critics: “In Richard L. Brandt’s One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com we not only get a concise history of the company, Brandt also profiles the unusual man behind the curtain, Jeff Bezos.

Book review: One Click, by Richard L Brandt

Management Today: “In 2000, Amazon was the biggest money-loser on the internet; now it’s worth $80bn. Roger Parry enjoys an account of founder Jeff Bezos’s astonishing story.”

Book review: One Click – Jeff Bezos and the rise of the Amazon

Idealog: “While Brandt only draws on a handful of sources and secondhand Bezos quotes from published interviews, he paints a picture of a loner from a young age, a bookworm whose technical ability combined with resourcefulness and a talent for spotting markets ripe for disruption sealed his place in history.

   

Related Blog Articles

Digital Wallet, Here We Come!

Ben&David: “Now that Bezos & Co. are done capturing the book world, it’s going after currencies, announcing that it will be issuing “Amazon Coins” to Kindle owners for use in the development and purchase of games and apps on the Kindle platform.”

Ian Barker of Symtext: The Education Entrepreneur’s Experience

Higher Education Management: “Ian Barker is the Founder of Symtext, a Toronto-based start-up. Symtext’s core product and service is “Liquid Textbooks” – in use at UCLA, San Diego State University, and by publishers like Oxford University Press Canada. I asked Ian to provide his view of the “start-up” experience in digital higher ed.”

Business Schools Should Teach You How To Tell a ‘Sticky’ Story

Modern World: “I was captivated by one of my favorite professors’ courses, in which he told us to ‘learn to tell a story that sticks’.  I matched everything together and got to an interesting conclusion. Business Schools should provide Marketing students with at least a basic set of creative writing skills!!”            

Like a Virgin by Richard Branson Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Onward by Howard Schultz
Inside Coca Cola by Neville Isdell Good to Great by Jim Collins Jack by Jack Welch & John A. Byrne

Amazon Kindle Bezos Barnes and Nobles  One Click Time Magazine  Grenoble EM  ESC Grenoble  GGSB  Strategy  Blog  Global Ed  International Affairs in Higher Education  Business School  Mark Thomas

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Careers, Higher Education, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Strategy, Technology, USA

5 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: Amazon “One Click” by Richard L. Brandt (2012)

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