The new book on Amazon.com by Bloomberg Businessweek writer Brad Stone gets one star from MacKenzie Bezos.
The wife of Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos posted her review on Amazon Monday in which she criticizes Stone for “numerous factual inaccuracies” in “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” She notes an anecdote in which Stone describes Bezos as reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Remains of the Day” just before leaving the D.E. Shaw hedge fund to launch Amazon.
“It’s a good beginning, and it weaves in nicely with what’s to come,” MacKenzie Bezos writes in her review on the Amazon.com page selling the book. “But it’s not true. Jeff didn’t read ‘Remains of the Day’ until a year after he started Amazon.”
Jeff Bezos, who is portrayed in the book as an often ruthless leader who treats employees as pieces of the machinery used to build Amazon, has not commented on the book publicly. The book, though, clearly touched a nerve both with MacKenzie Bezos and Amazon’s public relations department.
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The company’s top spokesman, Craig Berman, issued a statement Monday afternoon, accusing Stone of not fact-checking claims from former employees. Berman noted that Stone met with more than half a dozen Amazon executives during his reporting of the book, and met Berman on “on at least three occasions,” as well as exchanging “dozens” of emails with the PR boss.
“He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative, but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to,” Berman wrote.
Stone said to the extent there are inaccuracies, he’ll correct them in the digital version of the book and in subsequent print editions. In the book, Stone notes that Bezos chose not to comment for it, though he did facilitate interviews with his parents and a few Amazon executives.
“I talked with 300 people to get a depiction of a company that has changed our world and is fairly disruptive,” Stone said. “There are a wide range of views. I don’t think it was a one-sided portrait.”
In her review, MacKenzie Bezos writes that the “Remains of the Day” anecdote is just one of many inaccuracies, though she doesn’t detail the others. Rather, Bezos writes that the errors underscore a greater injustice.
“If this were an isolated example, it might not matter, but it’s not,” she writes. “Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book.”
Bezos is an author herself; she has two novels available on Amazon — “Traps” and “The Testing of Luther Albright.” Her appraisal of Stone’s book includes the criticism that it’s “full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction,” such as ignoring accounts of “ a supportive and inspiring culture” at Amazon.
MacKenzie Bezos’s one-star review puts her at odds with the 43 other Amazon customers who’ve reviewed the book on its site by Monday afternoon. Thirty-one of them had given the book five stars, and 10 had given it four stars.
Clearly, different Amazonians have different perceptions of the company’s culture. Stone noted that he’s heard from several current and former employees, whose responses have been “generally positive.” And in a review on the Seattle tech website Geekwire last week, former Amazon director of enterprise services, recounted an episode when Jeff Bezos upbraided him for not satisfactorily answering a question in a meeting.
“Stone’s story is an exciting read — even though I already knew the punch lines — and confirmed all of what I know about Amazon,” John Rossman writes.
Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: iamjaygreene