About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Jeff Bezos looks more like a college professor than one of the world's greatest moguls. He is of unprepossessing height, bald, with a Kirk Douglas-like cleft chin, warm eyes and self-deprecating humor. His contagious passion is punctuated by a startling laugh that one writer likened to a braying donkey and another to "a rapid honk that sounds like a flock of Canadian geese on nitrous oxide." However, looks-and the unusual laugh-are deceiving, for Jeff is blessed with a brilliant analytical mind, an uncanny knack for thinking outside the box, and the ability to carry his dreams-world-changing dreams-to fruition.
Years from now historians and economists will debate which of Jeff Bezos's achievements has had the greatest impact on commerce and culture: the founding of Amazon-the organization that ushered in the world of e-commerce; the creation of the Kindle-the first successful and utilitarian ebook reading platform that ushered in a new paradigm for books and publishing; or developing vehicles to carry mankind into space.
Bill Gates sides with the Kindle. Writing in Time magazine in 2009, Microsoft's founder noted that Jeff's "biggest legacy of all might be more down to earth - a modest-looking white-and-silver digital device called the Kindle. This electronic book is Jeff's brainchild and may well revolutionize not only how we acquire books and periodicals but also how bookworms like me actually read them." Amazon employees will openly acknowledge the Kindle as "Jeff's baby." Others might argue that Amazon.com marks Jeff's greatest achievement. After all, he is the pioneer who blazed the trail for internet commerce, a sector that has been growing at a rocket-like trajectory since its inception in the mid 1990s.
Jeff Bezos heralded the age of internet commerce in 1994 by launching a company he considered naming "Cadabra," as in "abracadabra," but when his lawyer mistook it for "cadaver," Jeff quickly changed it to "Amazon." If the name, a reference to the greatest river in the world carrying the greatest volume of water (not a reference to Greek mythology's tribe of warlike women), seemed a bit pretentious at the time, the company bearing the name has certainly grown into its mantle. Today Amazon maintains the greatest flow of goods and books on Earth emanating from a single company through the internet. And the numbers for internet commerce are nothing less than staggering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 e-commerce, that is all commerce transacted in the U.S. solely through the internet, was $3.70 trillion, or 16.55% of total commercial transactions. Amazon's revenue of $7.13 billion for the first quarter of 2010 reflects the exponential growth of internet commerce.
Joshua Quittner, writing in Time Magazine in December 1999, regarded Jeff's life as"-so fantastic as to verge on the unbelievable." Little did he know how much further Jeff would travel in the next decade on his voyage with Amazon or the Kindle, then probably just a gleam in Jeff's eye.