OT: Bezonomics: How Amazon is Changing Our Lives

“Bezonomics: How Amazon is Changing Our Lives and What the World’s Best Companies are Learning from it,” by Brian Dumaine, Scribner, NY, 2020. This 325-page hard back is a breezy overview of Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos. Previous books have described the early days at Amazon in detail. This one summarizes the stories and adds more recent information.

Bezos was born in New Mexico. After a divorce his mother remarried a Cuban refugee. He was adopted by his stepfather and hence took the name Bezos. He attended Princeton studying physics later changing to electrical engineering and computer science. He went to work for a NY hedge fund, DE Shaw, where he noted the growth rate of the internet. He decided books had excellent potential for sale on the internet and started Amazon in 1994. He moved his family to Seattle as he saw it as a technology center especially due to Microsoft.

The book describes his strong focus on the customer and his insistence on innovation. Amazon is willing to try new ventures usually based on a 6-page memo describing the opportunity. Gradually he built an efficient warehouse distribution system using state of the art automation and robots. Many expansions are described including Alexa, AWS cloud service, and Amazon Prime.

Amazon is the leading online retailer but Walmart is larger and is a major competitor especially in groceries. In buying Whole Foods, Amazon became a retailer with stores. Meanwhile Walmart acquired Jet.com to expand its online reach. Groceries fit with Walmart because they bring customers into their stores. Their large store base gives them potential to dominate grocery delivery and pickup services. Amazon’s focus is fast delivery from nearby warehouses. Whole Foods provides a base for local delivery, but is apparently limited to select demographics. Amazon has resources to expand but so far has not done so. Instead they experiment with other retail concepts. But also drone deliveries, self driving vehicles, etc. Applied computer technology is the core.

Amazon is a major employer especially in its warehouses and now delivery services. Workers complain the work is demanding. Worker safety has been an issue. Unions have attempted to organize some warehouses but so far Amazon has fought them off. The plan to add a second headquarters somewhere in the East brought the issue to a head. The mad scramble by various states to land the new headquarters somehow gets little attention, but Amazon selected New York City as the site. That met with opposition from a very blue union state and requests for concessions. AOC especially complained about the funds being expended to attract this billion dollar company. In the end, Amazon withdrew the offer and instead plans to locate in Virginia. Jeff Bezos has connections there having acquired the Washington Post newspaper.

Amazon allows outside sellers to list their products and ship them from Amazon warehouses. Sellers complain that Amazon uses their sales information to make their own competitive products. Search results can also be skewed to favor Amazon products. Some say this is unfair competition.

The book ends before the arrival of Covid. The Virginia aspect is not described. Bezos also has Blue Origin, his own space venture competing with commercial efforts like SpaceX from Elon Musk and another from Boeing.

Near St. Louis, an Amazon warehouse was damaged in a tornado. Amazon was criticized for lack of shelter for employees and for light construction with inadequate storm resistance. That story is omitted.

This is an informative story of Amazon and its many ventures. References. Index.