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The Everything War. Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power: A market behemoth

Dana Mattioli has produced a fascinating, forensic and compelling book on this relentlessly expanding company

The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power
The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power
Author: Dana Mattioli
ISBN-13: 978-1911709565
Publisher: Torva
Guideline Price: £22

Back in 2000, when online shopping was in its infancy and only a fourth of Ireland was online, I wrote an Irish Times column about Amazon’s controversial attempts to patent online business processes, including its “one-click” shopping button. I called the company a corporate bully. In short order, Amazon’s head of communications pinged me a snotty email. Subject heading: “Your drivel”.

Wall Street Journal writer Dana Mattioli’s fascinating, forensic The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power, confirms that such quick-fire belligerence wasn’t an accidental misstep, nor the greedy patent-grab. Both were part of the operating norm for the relentlessly expanding company, then and now.

Mattioli, a Pulitzer finalist for her writing on Amazon, exposes how the early online bookseller morphed into a behemoth that reaches into so many facets of retail and online services that it dominates and even controls the movement of entire markets. She tells a riveting tale of how Amazon founder and the world’s second richest man, Jeff Bezos, combined a few early lucky breaks with brutal retail genius to build the omnipresent online giant.

Now, so many everywhere are so reliant on Amazon’s bewildering breadth of corporate manifestations that some believe it should be re-classed a utility — providing critical infrastructure, and thus subject to far greater regulation — or broken up. As Mattioli notes, the one-time bookseller is now a huge publisher, a video, music and gaming service, the largest audiobook company, a “feudal overlord” to sellers on the world’s biggest online marketplace, a healthcare provider, the largest US parcel delivery service, a grocery purveyor, a clothing retailer, an electronics firm, a home security company, and a big provider of cloud computing with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The latter is its cash cow. Even world governments, utilities, military services and Amazon’s biggest industry rivals rely on AWS. And income from AWS underwrites the loss-making low prices on the main Amazon site, enabling Amazon to take over whole market sectors. Mattioli documents how these behaviours and other highly questionable tactics emit the pungent stink of monopoly. Anti-trust regulators in the US and EU are trying to tackle the slippery Amazon octopus. We are all, directly or indirectly, in Amazon’s addictive thrall. That smile on those ubiquitous Amazon boxes is more likely a smirk.

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