Inside the Giant Machine: An Amazon.com Story

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TEI DBA Ctr of Artfcl Imagn, Mar 10, 2010 - Photography - 136 pages
6 Reviews

On Dec. 14, 2009, customers ordered over 9.5 million items worldwide on Amazon, which is a record-breaking 110 items per second. How large a machine do you need to process and ship this kind of volume? How efficiently do you need operate it? And what kind of people do you need to keep it going?

The author, a former Technologist from Amazon.com writing under a pen name, gives us a vivid, sometime brutal inside scoop on Amazon.com's giant machinery, describing its cold and calculating culture in detail.

The story begins in Silicon Valley where we go through author's experiences in the fast moving world of a Hi-Tech start up. Soon thereafter, the author's start-up is acquired and he finds himself looking for a job.

He finds one in Seattle, a medley of lush green hills surrounded by snow capped mountains and sparking blue waters. Amazon.com--an Internet company based in Seattle which has taken the stock markets by storm, and has been transforming itself from an online retailer to an eCommerce platform, led by a CEO who is not afraid to act goofy.

It begins as a story of a technologist leaving behind his beloved Silicon Valley for Seattle. It unfolds into a moving story capturing Seattle's beauty, its interesting people and culture; and the inside scoop on the dot-com world - both the excitement and joy of innovation, and also the dark side of a culture driven by metrics, including "Cruelty curve", a quota for letting go of a certain number of people every year, a gene pool improving methodology by putting the weakest 10% on a chopping block.


 

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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
You can love them or loathe them, but since Amazon sold their first book over nineteen years ago, the company has transformed the lives of book
lovers and online shoppers worldwide. The company started out as an e-commerce bookstore, but grew to the retail giant of today through the efforts of some of the world's finest technoratis. One such person is author S. Kalpanik, who chronicles his personal experiences with the company in his book Inside the Giant Machine: An Amazon.com Story. While Kalpanik was doing other (equally interesting) things with his life when it all started, he did experience Amazon's crucial shift from retailer to major selling platform from a close vantage point and provides insight into how some of the features we take for granted today, such as the search algorithm and the look-inside-the-book application were created. Through the author's eyes, readers experience the relocation to Seattle and also the ultimate 'kiss-off' when he finally decides to leave the company.
Inside the Giant Machine by S. Kalpanik will make an absorbing read to anyone interested in exploring internet history or learning more about the dynamics that drive the powerful thrust of e-commerce. You will visit Amazon's largest warehouse in Fernley, Nevada, and discover why even executives must still shoulder warehouse duty from time to time. Speaking of those fully automated warehouses, you will also learn how they are optimized for shipping efficiency. Other topics covered include the company's extensive hiring protocol, almost draconian work ethic and how the notorious "cruelty curve" is applied. You will also catch priceless glimpses of the company's sometimes goofy CEO and founder Jeff Bizos at his best - and worst. The book was released through Amazon's own self publishing arm, which - considering the content - seems both ironic and deeply significant.
 

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It's a good story -- lighthearted, entertaining, and interesting. I was laughing when I saw some of the other reviewers call it narcissistic - All autobiographies and memoirs are bound to be somewhat narcissistic; otherwise, why would the author spends thousands of hours writing their story? they wouldn't have been written at all.
I did not buy this book because I wanted to see an example of humility in mankind, I bought it because I wanted to read interesting book. This is book is definitely entertaining, and entertainment is what we, or at least I usually buy books for.
As for it being a collection of anecdotes, it is -- and so is the classic "Little Women," and that didn't stop it from being a classic.
Oh, and there is a 1 star rating from a reviewer who could not read it in on her iPhone Kindle App(it showed blue on black) and for some strange reason, blamed it on the author! I say phooey to that reviewer.
And of course, a current Amazon employee did not like the truth about how his company's managers' draconian management style coming out - he gets five stars for loyalty to Amazon but 1 star for being objective
This really is a good story, much more entertaining that the other books on Amazon since the author adds personal anecdotes.
 

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Contents

About the Author Error Bookmark not defined
10
Welcome to Seattle
26
Pick Pack and Ship Delivering Billions of Dollars to Investors
34
The Summer Euphoria
54
Leader of the Revolution
68
A1A2 A9
85
Things Start to Fall Apart in Fall
92
The Slacker Sun
99
Amazon Enters China
117
The Inferno
125
Feminization of Las Vegas in Early 21st Century
138
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Kalpanik S. is an immigrant technologist. He came to the USA on a fellowship from the University of California in late eighties to study and do research in Computer Science.After completing his Graduate studies, Kalpanik worked at both large technology companies and small start-ups in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Nashville and Southern California. He has been writing a journal about his "journey'" through the US, and he finally decided to get it published.Kalpanik (pronounced as Kaalp-Nik) means "imaginary" in Hindi. Author decided to use a pen name to allow him to separate his literary identity from his professional identity.Kalpanik is also a great observer, not only he is able to point to the uniqueness, oddity and eccentricity of places, people and culture, he cleverly stretches it for a comic effect, making us crack up page after page.However, even though his writing has great splashes of humor, it is also very thoughtful. Also, many of the plots, incidents and characters have a layer of a second meaning, delighting his readers when they figure out the cleverly hidden message, or the unexpected punchline, making his books cater to the needs of both the readers who are looking for something light and refreshing, and those who want something more sophisticated.Many of the photos in this book were taken by Colin Zheng, another foreign technology immigrant.

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