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Jeff Bezos' wife gives a one-star review to the new Amazon book

AuthorsBookJeff BezosMedia IndustryDiana Nyad

In general, "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon" by Brad Stone has been getting pretty good reviews. Not, however, from the Amazon user MacKenzie Bezos, who gives it one star.

MacKenzie Bezos is Jeff Bezos' wife, and Amazon has confirmed that it is in fact she who posted the review.

In a 900-word write-up criticizing the book, MacKenzie Bezos asserts that the book leads off with an inaccuracy -- that Jeff Bezos read "Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro before he started Amazon, which she says he read a year later.

"I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events," she writes. "I worked for Jeff at D. E. Shaw, I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history. Jeff and I have been married for 20 years."

Mrs. Bezos gives "The Everything Store" the lowest possible ranking, one star out of five. She thinks, as well as being inaccurate, the book goes too far to describe Bezos' state of mind without interviewing the man himself, and that it is dismissive of those who relay "accounts of a supportive and inspiring culture" at Amazon.

These seem to be valid concerns. Whether they genuinely reflect the book, which its publisher describes as "The definitive story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world, and of its driven, brilliant founder, Jeff Bezos," is another matter.

In the world of book reviews, an effort is made to preserve impartiality. Writers and editors take pains to make sure that the reviewer doesn't have a personal connection to the author.

Although what is written on Amazon is often considered a review of a book -- they are commonly called "Amazon reviews" -- there are no such safeguards. Anyone can leave a low rating for a book -- a literary nemesis, a staffer doing as they're told or a faithful spouse.

Mrs. Bezos isn't the first. That happened in England when a historian's wife, using the pseudonym "a historian," left a number of negative reviews of his rivals' books. British crime writer R.J. Ellory created an account that left glowing reviews of his own work while savaging his rivals before being discovered. Meanwhile, the content of reviews on Goodreads, which Amazon acquired earlier this year, has recently been the subject of much debate.

Maybe it would help if we stopped calling these things reviews. Customer feedback, maybe? Thoughts? Feelings?

As of this writing, the one-star review of "The Everything Store" by MacKenzie Bezos is the "most helpful" of the customer reviews at Amazon, as voted by 218 of 238 Amazon users.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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