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The Everything Store documents life inside Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos started off delivering books through the mail, but he wanted his Amazon.com to be something much more ambitious – an online service for absolutely everything.

Author Brad Stone shows how CEO Jeff Bezos set the terms for digital retail

Brad Stone’s book chronicles the rise of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos 4:53

Jeff Bezos started Amazon.com as a service delivering books through the mail, but he wanted his company to be something much more ambitious – an online service for absolutely everything.

Author Brad Stone shows how this innovative and often ruthless visionary built Amazon.com in his book, The Everything Store:  Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

Stone, a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek who has covered Silicon Valley for years, was not granted access to the obsessively private Bezos. Instead he interviewed current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members to find out about life inside the burgeoning company.

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos introduces the all-new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 eight-inch tablet, right, and Kindle Fire HDX seven-inch tablet in Seattle on Sept. 24. The Everything Store is an unauthorized biography of Bezos. (Associated Press)

Stone’s effort was famously panned in an online review by MacKenzie Bezos, who was not happy at the portrait of her husband as a temperamental tyrant, who guides his subordinates with withering insults. She called the book "lopsided and misleading" and gave it one star on Amazon.

But Stone admires Bezos’ entrepreneurial vision and attempts to present a nuanced portrait of him.

"Bezos never thought of Amazon as a retailer – it was a technology company in his mind," Stone said in an interview with CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange

"Even when the stock went down to the single digits, he never gave up. Then Google comes along and is clearly the better business model, and Bezos’ answer to that is to invent – he invents the Kindle and he creates Amazon web services and Cloud services. Those are huge reasons why Amazon is mentioned in the same breath as an Apple or a Google," Stone said.

Bezos has succeeded in turning retail on its head, undercutting prices, flooding markets with product and wooing consumers with low delivery costs. Along the way, he has helped set the terms of digital retailing and left other companies scrambling to keep up.

The company is very reliant on his style and vision, Stone said.

"It’s almost an apparatus based around his brain and how he processes information.  Every meeting at Amazon starts by reading a six-page document called “The Narrative” and that is because that is how he prefers to process information," he said. 

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