I just found everything Jeff Bezos has ever reviewed on Amazon, and it’s utterly fascinating
This is the story of an unnoticed window on the spirit of jeff bezos. It’s something that’s been hiding in plain sight for over 20 years.
Because it turns out that Bezos is not only the CEO of Amazon and the richest person in the world, but he is also the CEO of Amazon. 78,951,609th rated commentator.
There are only six reviews on His profileall published between 2000 and 2006. If you’ve read Bezos’ shareholder letters and seen his interviews, his style will be familiar to you.
An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed that this was Bezos’ own profile and that the reviews were his own.
Beyond this confirmation, we still have to fill in the context. So here are the six products Bezos took the time to review, along with excerpts from his review, and what I think they tell us about him. The two most recent, #5 and #6, are particularly interesting.
1. Wow. A masterpiece.
Just over 21 years ago, Bezos wrote a review for the Oscar-winning 1997 film, Life is Beautiful.
“This movie is absolutely everything it’s supposed to be,” Bezos wrote. “Hysterically funny and tear-jerking at the same time… The DVD is optionally dubbed in English, but I highly recommend using the subtitles.”
I find no other indication that Bezos spoke about this film, which was his first review. In 2018 he posed for a photo in Miami with a sticker that reads “Life is good” behind him, but that might just be a coincidence.
However, Bezos is known as a fan of emotional, even heartbreaking stories. In fact, the extent to which he was inspired to start Amazon by reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s book Leftovers of the day is a great part of another famous Amazon review.
Worth noting: the movie is now available on Prime Video, which didn’t even exist until years after Bezos wrote his review.
2. Absolutely the best binoculars I’ve used
Then, six months later, Bezos was brought in to review a pair of very expensive binoculars. They’re still on sale on Amazon for $1,469:
“The problem with high-powered binoculars is that humans can’t hold them steady, and that jitter makes it impossible to really look at anything without a tripod. This pair’s image stabilization solves that problem and keeps things steady.
I only have two small complaints: firstly, for such an expensive product, they should pre-install the neck strap for you – no big deal, but it would be good for the customer. Second, I wish the lens caps were of better quality…”
I once ran the full text of every shareholder letter from Jeff Bezos at the time via a word cloud generator, and found that the most repeated number 1 word was “customer” (even more than “Amazon”). Interestingly, that word also made its way into his second review.
3. Intense and disciplined
This review seems almost autobiographical. This is a book called The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race.
The publisher says the book “describes how the annual sailing competition became one of modern sailing’s worst disasters which left six sailors dead and a number of yachts destroyed”.
Bezos says the author, Bruce Knecht:
“capturing acts of heroism and frailty, but … never judge these people. Judging these strong people would inevitably oversimplify the reality of human behavior under life-threatening stress.”
Hmmm, I wonder if Bezos knew any “intense and disciplined” people that others couldn’t accurately judge?
4. They planned to visit the solar system
Here, Bezos reviews George Dyson’s book, Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spacecraftwhich concerned Dyson’s father’s project in the 1950s to equip spacecraft with atomic engines, so that human astronauts could explore the solar system.
For those of us who dream of visiting the outer planets, seeing Saturn’s rings up close without the aid of telescopes or charge-coupled devices, well, we pretty much have to *read Project Orion . … It was not delusional optimism; they had strong technical reasons to believe they could do it.
The younger Dyson was involved with Bezos’ Blue Origin, which now schedules suborbital flights for tourists, supposed to start in July.
(I found a reference to Bezos reviewing Dyson’s book in a Profile 2018 in Wiredwhich led me to seek out his review page in the first place.)
5. A great novel of ideas!
In January 2003, Bezos gave a glowing review of Cory Doctorow’s science fiction novel, Down and out in the magic kingdom:
In this fun and fast-paced book, the talented Cory Doctorow explores a complete reputation economy. With the help of a sophisticated real-time network, people accumulate and lose a currency of reputation called “whuffie”. … Cory Doctorow deserves a lot of whuffie for this novel. Highly recommended.
Are you ready for the ironic plot twist? Here’s Cory Doctorow, on Twitter, 17 years later (so last April), lamenting several things that Amazon has done, to the point that “its reputation has collapsed”.
Doctorow’s thread launch 10 tweetsso I’m not going to include everything here, but wow.
6. Long life fan
OK, this last review (meaning the most recent) was for a bottle of milk: Tuscan Dairy Whole Vitamin D, to be precise.
“I love milk so much that I’ve been drinking it since the day I was born,” Bezos wrote.
I was stuck trying to figure out the meaning, but luckily a series of news articles from 2006 solved the mystery. The Amazon listing has been the subject of a digital prank, with people randomly choosing the listing and leaving rave reviews just for fun.
Turns out Bezos has a silly streak too and likes to be in on the joke. But at the time of this writing, only 89 people found his review “helpful.”
(Don’t forget the free ebook, Jeff Bezos has no regrets.)