by Steve Laube
The big news late last week is that Amazon.com has purchased Goodreads.com. If you happened to read some of the panicked and outraged fans of Goodreads the news was yet another signal that Amazon is an evil empire.
Some are seeing this purchase as the harbinger of a bookocalypse or worse. It is as if everyone is waiting for Amazon to reset the sales rankings of every book to 666, thereby confirming their greatest fears.
Goodreads has served as a massive online bookclub. It creates word-of-mouth recommendations and promotes the joy of reading in community. I know a number of people who rely heavily on Goodreads to discover their next book to read.
From a business perspective Amazon has made a brilliant purchase that cost only a reported 150 million dollars. If they take a “do no harm” approach to ownership and simply funnel readers into their store for purchases they will earn their investment in no time at all. Amazon has done this type of purchase before with Zappos, the online shoe store. Read founder Tony Hsieh’ book, Delivering Happiness, and you’ll see where he sees Amazon’s purchase as the best thing that happened to his company, a purchase that allowed them to grow exponentially.
At the very least Amazon will integrate Shelfari.com, which they already own, into Goodreads and merge the best of both reader services.
“Discoverablity” is buzz word in the industry. In other words, how do readers “discover” new books when bookstores are struggling and online bookstore browsing is limited to screen space? Thus Goodreads is a critical player in discoverability for tens of thousands of readers. There are other options but none quite as large and diverse.
If you are a user of Goodreads let us know in the comments below how you use it and whether it helps you decide on new books or how you use it as an author.
Suffice it to say, this industry is in a constant state of flux. Keep reading our blog and other industry experts to help you stay informed!
Renee Ann Smith
I’m on Goodreads. I only have 300 friends or so, but I’m in several groups. Here’s an example of just one: Christian Fiction Devourers has 1,700 members. We have a private group on FB & are soon beginning a Pinterest board. We suggest all kinds of books to each other and feature a fiction and non-fiction book (Christian growth) each month. Often when I’ve posted a book review, folks will add the book to their wish lists. I’m thinking that the increased relationship w/ Amazon will make books easier to discover & grab. I’m amazed at how many authors don’t take advantage of Goodreads (beyond hosting a giveaway) & check out the groups. (I’m not an author.)
Well, as long as Google doesn’t buy Amazon, I’ll deal with it.
It doesn’t matter to me what Amazon purchases. I would not rely on Goodreads for book reviews any more than I rely on the reviews on Amazon’s site. I get my reviews from Books & Culture, Ruminate, the New York Times, and other credible sources.
I love seeing what my friends are reading. This is how we share book recommendations now. Also I love having a running list of what I want to read/have read. It’s so easy to go back and let someone know of a recommendation. Visually, I love the way Goodreads presents books, it just makes you want to read!
Leah E. Good
I agree with everything Lisa said. I love keeping track of the books I have read, giving and getting recommendations, and participating in a few groups. It’s a great way to network too! I also Amazon, so as long as nothing drastic changes on Goodreads, the takeover doesn’t bother me.
Bookocalypse. Love it! I am on Goodreads, but I don’t use it to find new books. (Usually agent blogs give me lots of great suggestions!) I need to learn how to use it better, but I’m definitely going to check out that Christian Fiction Devourers group that Renee mentioned.
I use Goodreads faithfully to record the books I’ve read and the books I want to read. I leave reviews and I read reviews to help me decide what to read. As long as Amazon doesn’t mess with what works, I have no problem with this sale. Of course, I love Amazon. I love my local bookstores, too, but honestly, most of my book purchases are with Amazon, because it’s easier, faster (for me, because I avoid shopping like some people avoid taxes), and cheaper. Amazon is like the Walmart of the Internet. I shop at Walmart, too.
Steve, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.
I live in a small town with two stoplights and I shop Amazon frequently. But here’s my initial reaction.
Besides writing, I’m a pharmacist who works at an independent pharmacy. You call us and we answer the phone. No automated system to wait through.
CVS pharmacy bought Caremark Insurance a few years ago. First Caremark urged people to use mail order. When I say urge, practically demanded. Now, Caremark is telling their cardholders to use CVS pharmacy.
Customers we’ve had for over forty years are now being told they have to go to CVS if they want their prescription insurance to work.
So I know Amazon buying Goodreads isn’t this bad, but what if they form alliances with only certain publishers?
Will that put small publishers out of business?
Where will it all end?
Does it matter to new authors? And what about readers? Will they miss out on great stories because of Amazon?
(Please tell me this isn’t an April Fool’s day joke, because I will feel foolish for my doom and gloom.)
Jackie, I was leaning towards this being an April Fool’s Day joke as well, but an online search revealed that Forbes magazine reported this on March 28: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/03/28/amazon-buys-goodreads-take-that-bookish/
Rachel Leigh Smith
I use Goodreads. It’s the only place I read reviews. I don’t care what Amazon says about Goodreads remaining independent. I don’t believe it. If they apply their review policies I’m gone.
I also do not shop at Amazon. I’m a Nook owner who also shops at Kobo. If they direct all purchase links to Amazon, I’m also gone. When I say I don’t shop at Amazon, I really mean it. I do not shop there. For anything.
I suppose this could be a good development for Goodreads, but the news made my heart sink.
Not an April Fool’s joke. It is for real.
As I said, as long as they “do no harm” it will likely improve the service and make it even easier to buy books while inside Goodreads.