Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Amazonia, by James Marcus

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

James Marcus was employee number 55 at Having been a low-numbered worker myself at several internet startups, I was interested in what he had to say. While it wasn’t what I expected, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This is a good read.

Marcus was a Senior Editor for Amazon and as a result the language is a bit lofty. For instance, "It was a battle of superlatives, and a jesuitical pissing contest." Jesuitical. Wow. Other fun words include aquiline, madrigal, bifurcated, encyclical, antebellum, mercurial, and apothegmatic. All in a book about an internet storefront. You get the idea.

The vignettes the author tells are great. My favorite was when he was discussing some of the questions that customer service fields. “I saw a book on television last week, the one with the red cover. Can you tell me what it’s called?” Reminds me a lot of the stories my mother tells; she is a reference librarian and has answered many similarly ridiculous queries. My favorite has got to be, “What is the name of Robin Hood’s dog?” Back to the book. Another entertaining tale comes when Marcus describes what it was like working in the warehouse during the holiday season (apparently all Amazon employees helped during the Christmas rush). He likens the scene to the famous candy factory from I Love Lucy (My second favorite Lucy episode behind the one with Superman!). While the imagery is fantastic, I was also wryly amused at the authors disdain for what people were actually purchasing.

This isn’t the definitive book about Amazon, but it is a good snapshot of what was happening there during the early days. Marcus doesn’t try and detail all the changes in the technology or the business model, but instead just presents them as he saw them. This approach leaves some holes in the story of Amazon, but it is still fascinating in its own light.

First Sentence:
One fine spring day in 1996, I took off from Portland, Oregon, in a prop plane the size of a toy, which seemed to touch down in Seattle only moments later.

No comments:

Search This Blog