What is an author to do when his book about Amazon receives a one-star review on Amazon, written by the wife of Amazon's creator? Well, he reviews her review, of course.
An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed that the first Amazon one-star review of Brad Stones's The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, was indeed written by MacKenzie Bezos, Jeff's wife. Mackenzie writes in her user-generated guide that The Everything Store is "a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon." In other words, she didn't like it so much. Bezos accused Stone of factual inaccuracies, but her chief complaint was he wrote the story as if he had first-hand knowledge of Bezos' thinking when, in fact, Bezos (and the company) refused to cooperate with his reporting.
While laying out her lengthy objections, MacKenzie Bezos also explained her qualifications to comment on the story as she was a witness to many of the events of the book, which chronicles the very beginnings of Amazon.com, and the crucial events that shaped the eventual Internet retail giant. There's also one other point in her favor: "Jeff and I have been married for 20 years," she says. Oh.
Stone, for his part, gracefully acknowledged the slam in a column at Bloomberg Businessweek. The magazine's senior reporter admitted that his book may not be the most accurate representation of Bezos' thinking — despite interviewing over 300 former and current Amazon executives, employees and customers — because Jeff Bezos declined to participate. But Stone contends his style is common with narrative non-fiction writing, and stands by his account.
He did, however, acknowledge at least one factual mistake in a separate interview with The New York Times. He mistook the year Bezos read Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, but promised that it will be corrected in subsequent editions. (Update: Amazon is also taking issue with a joke Stone made about MacKenzie, that was meant to be sorta flattering.)
While MacKenzie complained about the depiction of unflattering moments of tension in Amazon's rise, Stone explained those moments are the ones that writers will often gravitate towards; tensions is interesting, no one wants to read about the calm:
No matter how hard we strive for objectivity, writers are biased toward tension—those moments in which character is forged and revealed. I set out to tell the incredible story of how Amazon grew from three people in a garage to a company that employs 100,000 people around the world. It wasn’t an easy journey for the company, and for many Amazon employees, it wasn’t always enjoyable. It’s precisely that tension—between sacrifice and success—that makes Amazon and Bezos so compelling. Like any company, there were countless moments of dull harmony, and who knows how many hours of unremarkable meetings along the way. You could argue that many of those define Bezos and the company more than the strategic risks and moments of friction. MacKenzie Bezos does. I happen to disagree.
So MacKenzie Bezos was unimpressed with Stone's The Everything Store, and Stone was unimpressed with MacKenzie Bezos's review of The Everything Store. The two sides are fated to disagree, forever and ever, until the Internet explodes. Stone did invite the Bezos clan to point out any specific inaccuracies they have a problem with and said he'd be happy to correct them if they do.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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