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Amazon Unbound by Brad Stone

Amazon Unbound tells the story of Jezz Bezos and more specifically the company he founded, during a period of unprecedented growth from 2010 to 2020 when Amazon’s market value hit the one trillion dollar mark, and Jeff Bezos’ personal wealth exceeded that of many countries.

What’s someone who works in an Independent bookshop doing reading about Amazon – long seen as an existential threat to traditional bookshops?  How we shop has changed fundamentally because of Amazon, the world of IT would probably be very different if it wasn’t for Amazon’s developments in Cloud Computing and it’s fascinating to gain an insight into how this happened.

Fundamentally, the book describes the means that Amazon has used to achieve this growth – some positive (their aim to make the customer and supplier experience as “frictionless” as possible, and how any new development starts with writing the press release describing customer value before they’ve built anything), others of questionable ethics (suggestions that they have used or misused statistics from their third party marketplace to give itself competitive advantage), or using its ‘leverage’ (deep pockets) to launch new ventures – some with no prospect of short-term profitability.

Brad Stone poses the question “Is the World better off with Amazon in it?” Herein lies the conundrum – Amazon’s innovations have fundamentally changed so many aspects of our daily lives, from how we shop to how we watch television, (as well as Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services provide the infrastructure for many other streaming services), to how businesses operate in all sectors. Along the way, Amazon has disrupted so many sectors, making it very difficult for smaller operators to survive without them, while rendering it exceptionally difficult to live with them.

In spite of many of these advancements, I finished the book wondering if there’s any way that we can achieve the benefits of innovations, without allowing one entity to have such influence and control.

Worth a read for anybody who’s interested in how “Big Tech” operates.

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