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Copyright

Title: The Perfect Store: Inside eBay
Author: Adam Cohen
Publisher: Little, Brown
Copyright: 2002
ISBN: 0-316-15048-7
Pages: 336
Price: $25.95
Rating: 87%
Before eBay, and unless you lived in a large metropolitan area, you could buy anything your heart desired, as long as it was not obscure, weird, or rare. When you could find the obscure, weird, or rare, you were undoubtedly forced to pay too much to the middleman with the connections. Rare Beanie Babies, the perfect used car, a kidney, cheap semi-precious stones and jewelry findings, computer parts, collectible clothing irons--old junk--you name it. Now, if you can want it, you can probably find it on eBay.

Okay, so they remove the body-part auctions, but a guy did manage to sell his soul. This an other interesting tidbits pepper The Perfect Store, Cohen's folksy corporate history of eBay. It's like a bad melodrama: love, hate, revolution, amnesia--used underwear with or without bodily fluids. Yes, it's as amusing as it sounds, even with the parts on frictionless markets, server crashes, and IPOs.

Cohen's prose is smooth and his story telling sublime. He documents history in an entertaining way and then intersperses those sections with profiles of eBay's old guard. There's the woman who sells bubble wrap, the cross-dressing farmer (it's a joke) who was one of the first customer service representatives, and the Mayan village struggling into the 21st century. The most poignant of the vignettes, about a woman who had amnesia and lost the whole of her former life, left me sad and wishing for closure. Did she ever rediscover the self she had once been, or did she continue to live a half life on the eBay message boards? We'll never know. Cohen's point, stressed again and again through out The Perfect Store, was the power and cohesion of the eBay community. These were just the quirkiest examples.

Of all the dot-coms, it can be argued that eBay is the biggest winner of them all. With a market cap in the billions and over 20 million users and actual profits, it's not even a tough debate. Like most successful entities, eventually, there'll be an overly-congratulatory corporate history. The Perfect Store is just such a fawning tale. Unbiased? eBay gave Cohen incredible access: an employee ID, an office in the building, and interviews with top brass. It would be hard to say that it was uninfluenced. You decide. Regardless, it's also not hard to say The Perfect Store is a great deal of fun to read.

M. E. Tyler's work has appeared in national magazines and high-profile web sites. A former software developer, Tyler has an eclectic technical background, programming for both the Mac and Windows and working as a Web site developer. Tyler was the ebook review editor for ForeWord Magazine and the editor-in-chief for ForeWord Reviews, and is the regular book review columnist for Writer's Exchange and for eBook Web. Tyler owns Private Ice Publications, a niche publishing house dedicated to publishing the best sports fiction for women.