If you're going to write a book about eCommerce's most powerful, diabolical chrome-dome, you better stick the details—stray from the truth, and MacKenzie Bezos is going to fuck up your average review score.
Business writer Brad Stone's new tome, "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon," has been received quite well among the kind of people who want to read about Amazon.com. And, no doubt, Bezos is an interesting guy—probably the closest thing we have to a living Steve Jobs. But according to Mrs. Bezos, Stone really botched some important parts, and wrote over 900 words explaining how:
In the first chapter, the book sets the stage for Bezos's decision to leave his job and build an Internet bookstore. "At the time Bezos was thinking about what to do next, he had recently finished the novel Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro, about a butler who wistfully recalls his personal and professional choices during a career in service in wartime Great Britain. So looking back on life's important junctures was on Bezos's mind when he came up with what he calls 'the regret-minimization framework' to decide the next step to take at this juncture in his career." It's a good beginning, and it weaves in nicely with what's to come. But it's not true. Jeff didn't read Remains of the Day until a year after he started Amazon.
If that's wrong, what else could be wrong? Is his name even Jeff Bezos? MacKenzie says Stone took liberties with the text that push the work into the realm of fiction:
While numerous factual inaccuracies are certainly troubling in a book being promoted to readers as a meticulously researched definitive history, they are not the biggest problem here. 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. An author writing about any large organization will encounter people who recall moments of tension out of tens of thousands of hours of meetings and characterize them in their own way, and including those is legitimate. But I would caution readers to take note of the weak rhetorical devices used to make it sound like these quotes reflect daily life at Amazon or the majority viewpoint about working there
Ideally, authors are careful to ensure people know whether what they are reading is history or an entertaining fictionalization. Hollywood often uses a more honest label: "a story based on true events."