MacKenzie Bezos, novelist and wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is using her husband's platform to strike back at the author of biography The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. In a long one-star review, Bezos says the book contains both factual inaccuracies and rhetorical tricks that paint an unduly negative picture of Bezos and Amazon's culture. As a first warning sign, she cites an early note about Bezos reading Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day while preparing to start his new venture. The problem? MacKenzie Bezos says he didn't pick it up until a year after founding Amazon. "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 writes.
These doubts, though, aren't her main concern. Instead, she accuses author Brad Stone of ignoring positive feedback in order to play up Amazon as an adversarial, stressful environment and Bezos as a brilliant but brutal visionary (Bezos "treats workers as expendable resources without taking into account their contributions," Stone writes at one point.) Quoting a few of the "thousands of thank you messages" Amazon's founder has received, she complains that "when the author does include people whose accounts of a supportive and inspiring culture contradict his thesis, he refers to them dismissively throughout the book as robots." Another reviewer, who claims he was among those interviewed for Stone's book, says that "Brad painted a one-dimensional picture of Jeff as a ruthless capitalist. He completely missed his warmth, his humor, and his empathy — all qualities abundantly present in the man."
Stone has said he spoke to 300 people to build a comprehensive portrait of Amazon and its leader, drawing from "my conversations over the years" with Bezos, who he says supported the project even if he believed it was too early to tell his story. Neither he nor Amazon have commented on this review, though a spokesperson did tell The Seattle Times that the review was indeed written by MacKenzie Bezos. Stone himself addressed similar criticism in the book, giving a disclaimer about the narrative fallacy: people's tendency to shape complex and hard-to-process events into smooth but simplified stories. Stone writes that Bezos asked him specifically about the issue: "Reducing Amazon's history to a simple narrative, [Bezos] worried, could give the impression of clarity rather than the real thing," he says. Now, MacKenzie Bezos is saying the same thing — and lamenting that the narrative Stone chose was one that made her husband a villain.
Update: Amazon's vice president of global communications, Craig Berman, has added more criticism of Stone's book in a statement:
Over the course of the author's reporting, Amazon facilitated meetings for him with more than half a dozen senior Amazon executives, during which he had every opportunity to inquire about or fact-check claims made by former employees. He chose not to. I met in person with him on at least three occasions and exchanged dozens of emails where he only checked a few specific quotes. He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative, but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to.