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Book Review: The Perfect Store – Inside eBay by Adam Cohen

The Perfect Store – Inside eBay
by Adam Cohen

Amazon: From its beginnings as a hobby site on a Silicon Valley PC, to its maturation as a real company under the burgeoning fiscal pressures of cyberspace, to its present status as one of the few original e-business practitioners to survive the dot.com implosion, eBay has always been part of the crowd while managing to stand out from it. Cohen helps us understand why by taking us inside the heads of major players like Pierre Omidyar, the co-founder who imbued his site with a Libertarian philosophy responsible for its heart and soul, and Meg Whitman, the seasoned manager who brought business savvy and a Harvard MBA to its roller-coaster world. What helps make the book so readable and informative, though, are Cohen’s accompanying observations of the many other people and events that also helped eBay develop its trademark direction and characteristic personality: the company that formulated its distinctive logo, the Kansas City clothing-iron collectors whose pastime was transformed by the upstart Web site, the quirky listings that generated controversy (and publicity) like the one in 1999 for a “fully functional kidney,” even detractors who decry its big-business underpinnings. Fans of the site, along with students of the online world in general, will find Cohen’s account both instructive and enjoyable.


This book is amazing. It’s by far the most inspirational book on web business that I have ever read. Besides being a great story which is now a part Internet folklore, the eBay journey provides many lessons for any person starting up a web business. If you want a great e-business story, rich with unique characters and personality, this book is for you. If you are a fan of eBay, the culture and the community this book is for you. If you are an Internet entrepreneur, and you want to learn from one of the biggest success stories online, this book is for you.

Pierre Omidyar the french American that built eBay became, at the time, one of the top 10 richest men in America when eBay did their IPO on the stock market. His share of the business was valued in the billions of dollars. Much of eBay’s upper management became billionaires and many of the staff millionaires. Omidyar commented that the amount of money he had was impossible for one man to ever conceivably spend in a lifetime, even all of his friends and family combined probably couldn’t spend it all. During most of this time he kept driving around his beat up old VW Volkswagen bug. Classy.

Full credit must be given to Adam Cohen the author of the book. The story is complete and meticulous in detail without being boring or repetitive. What made it even better were the little side stories interspersed within the main eBay history. He recounts tales of business that formed as a result of eBay, other websites and communities that developed to discuss eBay matters and even a story of how eBay staff entered a third world village to set up the equipment to allow the locals to sell their gift-wares on eBay. Mr Cohen carefully goes through every stage of business development, discusses all the important characters and explains all the major events. It’s a top class book that I enjoyed from start to finish.

The eBay story is very relevant to anyone that has a web business, or even just a website. We all want lots of people to visit our site and dream of becoming rich as a result of e-commerce. The eBay story starts out just like this – a guy sitting at home that builds a website that allows people to auction items. EBay started in the golden “untapped” early days of the world wide web when the concept of online auctions was new. Because of simplicity, first mover advantage and the addictiveness of online auctions eBay spread like wildfire mostly through viral networks – friends telling friends about a cool new website. In fact the site was so successful many times it buckled under the sheer demand and popularity. A unique and enviable position to be in when starting a web business or any business for that matter.

This book tells a great story about what can be accomplished online when you have a simple idea that just works. It clearly demonstrates the human aspect, detailing the characters and motivations behind the business and what they did well and did not do well. It outlines the challenges eBay faced at each stage of growth. It provides practical insights into the marketing methods that eBay employed. It outlines what happens to an organisation as it grows from a two person start-up business to one with hundreds of employees, shareholders, a board and an executive management team. It talks about the mistakes made along the way. It outlines the techniques and methods that had the most impact on business growth. As you can imagine, all this information is extremely valuable for any person interested in succeeding at online business and entrepreneurship.

I highly recommend this book.

Rated 4.5 / 5

eBay Fan


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