Writing books about fast-growing technology companies is a little like jumping from a highway overpass onto a speeding train. Sometimes you manage to hit the caboose and hang on for dear life, your work remaining relevant for a few glorious years. But other times, things change so rapidly that you miss the moment entirely, and your account is left to dangle as a historical curiosity, an account of an enterprise that no longer really exists in its current form.

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Amid the throngs at the January 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama, two groups of entrepreneurs were there not just to witness history but to make it. Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk were in the national mall that day, promoting a website called Airbed&Breakfast.com.

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Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store—a store that offered limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition that transformed retail in the same…

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Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth fly-on-the-wall account of one of the world’s most secretive companies.

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In the early nineties, a visionary special-effects guru named Marc Thorpe conjured a field of dreams different from any the world had seen before: It would be framed by unbreakable plastic instead of cornstalks; populated not by ghostly ballplayers but by remote-controlled robots, armed to the steely teeth, fighting in a booby-trapped ring. If you built it, they’d come all right….

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