Tech-giant CEOs such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos face criticism from a number of quarters, but they also boast their share of equally passionate defenders—including, every so often, family members who come crashing into the public realm to fight for their reputation.
Bezos’ wife MacKenzie is one of those family members, having posted a lengthy critique of “The Everything Store,” a new book by reporter Brad Stone that details the rise of Amazon.com. And of course, she chose to post that criticism as a review on the book’s Amazon page.
“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,” she wrote, adding a little later: “The book is also full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction, and the result is a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon.” She calls out the book’s portrayal of Amazon’s offices as tense and conflict-filled as one of those misleading elements.
Having tossed out a few jabs, she proceeds to delivering a few choice jawbreakers, including:
“Readers should remember that Jeff was never interviewed for this book, and should also take note of how seldom these guesses about his feelings and motives are marked with a footnote indicating there is any other source to substantiate them.”
Her critique drew so much attention from the blogosphere that Stone felt compelled to respond in a posting on Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
“Like any company, there were countless moments of dull harmony, and who knows how many hours of unremarkable meetings along the way,” Stone wrote in his rebuttal-to-the-rebuttal. “You could argue that many of those define Bezos and the company more than the strategic risks and moments of friction. MacKenzie Bezos does. I happen to disagree.”
Those differences in viewpoint aside (the irony is, Jeff Bezos in the book talks quite a bit about “narrative fallacy”), Stone seems more concerned about Bezos’ claims that the book is inaccurate. Claiming that he spoke to more than 300 people in the course of researching the book (including current and former Amazon employees, as well as Bezos himself), Stone insists that “no one has taken issue with the major revelations in my book,” including the blow-by-blow accounts of Amazon’s sometimes-brutal negotiations with book publishers and e-commerce rivals.
It’s easy to see why Bezos’ wife would take umbrage with the text; in Stone’s portrayal, Bezos is an unsentimental individual prone to explosive temper tantrums, and more than willing to fight beyond the bitter end to get whatever he wants. He describes an Amazon that survives the dot-com crash and grows beyond its e-commerce beginnings into an IT behemoth offering everything from IaaS to e-readers—but at a considerable cost in burned-out employees, messy backend infrastructure, and some painful missteps. In other words, it’s an attempt at a balanced accounting; and while MacKenzie Bezos positions herself as someone who would appreciate such a thing, one also understands why she would feel duty-bound to post a response.