Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Juggernaut, by James Marcus

Book 37

I picked up eight books from the library to research my final project and Amazonia, by James Marcus, was actually interesting. Marcus was Employee #55, hired by Jeff Bezos in 1996 to be an editor on He reviewed books. Lots and lots of them.
The story is partly about the bubble-to-bust and partly a simple tale of the birth of a behemoth. Bezos, CEO and 1999 Time Magazine Person of the Year, is portrayed as a kind of mad scientist of statistics that is only interested in projects that he can “measure”.

Marcus talks about how Amazon was staffed with an editorial department filled with bookworms and writers, charged with writing what he calls the “haiku” of book reviews. The cool thing was that they were not told to make it all positive, so as to sell more books. They wrote what they thought. Over the five years that he worked there, editors were slowly replaced with customer reviews and auto recommendations. Finally, Marcus took his stock options and ran.

And speaking of those stock options..there is some mention of the ride of the “accidental millionaires”, cashing in the shares and buying new cars. Until one day it all crashed.

Of course, we all know that Amazon survived. And it seems that James Marcus grew up to be a real writer.

One Comment on “Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Juggernaut, by James Marcus

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