What do you write about the man who sells everything? Wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gives one-star review to The Everything Store - a new biography of her husband
MacKenzie Bezos wasn't happy with the book's portrayal of her spouse
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Tuesday 05 November 2013
The Everything Store, a new book about the history of Amazon, has earned acclaim for its portrait of the online retailer’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, whom author Brad Stone paints as a compelling mix of inspirational, confrontational and downright ruthless. But at least one critic remains unconvinced by Stone’s depiction: Mr Bezos’s wife, Mackenzie, who has posted a one-star review of the book on her husband’s website.
In a 900-word hatchet-job, Mrs Bezos complains that Mr Stone’s book contains “numerous factual inaccuracies”, “unbalanced reporting” and a bias against accounts from people with positive memories of working at Amazon. She claims even the book’s opening anecdote is inaccurate: Mr Stone writes that Mr Bezos read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning novel Remains of the Day shortly before starting Amazon; Mrs Bezos says he read it a year after the website launched.
“I have first-hand knowledge of many of the events,” she writes. “I was there when [Jeff] wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centres, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history. Jeff and I have been married for 20 years.”
In a statement, Amazon spokesman Craig Berman backed Mrs Bezos’s review, saying the company had arranged for Mr Stone to interview several Amazon executives. “He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact-check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative,” Mr Berman said, “but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to.”
Mr Stone, a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, responded to the criticism in a post on the publication’s website, saying he would address any minor factual inaccuracies, such as the Remains of the Day story. But he insisted the major revelations in the book were true, and denied any bias against Mr Bezos or his company. Instead, he said his account simply focused on the more dramatic moments in Amazon’s 19-year history. Mrs Bezos, he writes, “took me to task for what she perceived were subtle biases in my story.
“I’ll own up to that, though my slant is hardly political or personal… Writers are biased toward tension.”
Mr Stone says he spoke to more than 300 sources while researching the book, including current and former Amazon employees, at least two of whom have also written Amazon reviews. Jonathan Leblang, who is in charge of developing the firm’s Kindle tablet devices, recommended The Everything Store, awarding it four out of five stars, though he warned that of episodes of which he had personal knowledge, “about 80 per cent is correct and 20 per cent isn’t”.
Rick Dalzell, Amazon’s chief information officer from 1997 to 2007, gave the book three stars, saying it was an “unbalanced” account. “Brad painted a one-dimensional picture of Jeff as a ruthless capitalist,” Mr Dalzell wrote. “He completely missed his warmth, his humour, and his empathy.”
Mrs Bezos noted that Mr Stone never interviewed her husband personally, though the author recounts in his book how he approached Mr Bezos, who declined an interview but reportedly encouraged colleagues, friends and family to cooperate.
Mr Bezos also asked Mr Stone how he intended to avoid the issue of “narrative fallacy”, a concept outlined in the bestselling business tome, The Black Swan, which is said to be required reading for all senior staff at Amazon. Taleb warns that humans employ narrative as a means of transforming “complex realities into soothing but oversimplified stories.”
The front cover of Brad Stone's book
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery reports: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 2 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 3 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 4 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Disney announces new female-led film Moana
Eight seconds of white noise is top of the Canadian iTunes chart because people love Taylor Swift that much
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Sensitive, silly and sensational
Is Poppy Pym the new Harry Potter? Children's bookseller wins Independent's new author search
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms