Amazon and Goodreads, Sittin’ in a Tree…

I do not visit Goodreads as often as I should. There are readers out there who spend hours on it, and yes, I probably should as well, but I am one of those people who is good socially only in small doses, whether in person or in cyberspace. I only

use Facebook to wish folks Happy Birthday; I text better than I talk, but never instant message; and I rarely visit Goodreads. Part of the reason for my lack of use of the latter is that I cannot keep up with my reading of those books of which I am already aware; if I discovered, say, an entirely different genre — such as redneck noir, to name but one — it might send me entirely over the edge that I am already toes up against and leaning forward.

I as a result have only a (barely) working knowledge of the site. I know that it is very user friendly; the opening page treats me with more respect than do my children. It does a wonderful job of pretending that its happy to see me. Maybe I don’t visit often because I know that if I did I might never leave. It is just as well, for I discovered today that Goodreads loves another, a suitor known to its friends and detractors as “Amazon.” They haven’t set a date for a nuptials, but a ring has been proffered and accepted, and a dowry promised.

I’m thinking — and I cannot stress enough that I am stating this from a position of ignorance — that, as with other marriages arranged for the purposes of uniting dynasties, this one could result in offspring good and bad. I was amused to read that one of Goodreads’ co-founders asked its users “…what integration with Kindle would you love to see the most?” I was sorely tempted to respond “Kindle. From behind” but felt that such would perhaps be inappropriate. No one asked how the friends of the parties felt about this coming together, however (though that hasn’t stopped Scott Turow from weighing in). 

Until now. I am asking you: how do you feel about Amazon purchasing Goodreads? What do you see as advantages or disadvantages for authors, publishers, readers, and the entities themselves? Is this a good thing or a bad thing, overall? Should Amazon maintain an editorial firewall, if you will, between itself and Goodreads? How will we even know? Ready, steady, go!

22 thoughts on “Amazon and Goodreads, Sittin’ in a Tree…

  1. Hrm….

    I use goodreads from time to time, perhaps it’d be best for amazon to put a thick firewall between the two, but of course on the other hand, if goodreads helps bring authors more $$ from their amazon sales, perhaps it’d be good for them to look deeply.


    This is a dilemma to be sure.

    • Indeed, Joe. Succinctly put. Any mechanism that makes one needle stick out in this every growing haystack of similarly shaped objects is worth exploring, at the least.

  2. For the merger I would only worry that Goodreads will find itself in the same boat as Amazon vis a vis who can and cannot write reviews and how that all works together. Amazon recently changed its review TOS to forbid people giving reviews within a genre they have competing products. While that makes sense it also has its own problems. Here’s the TOS clip from 6 January:

    As stated in our previous correspondence Authors are allowed to review books on as long as they are not overly negative reviews in the same genre as the Author’s own book. This is in place to prevent competing Authors from attempting to drive sales away from others and attempting to increase them on their own book

    It makes me curious how that kind of thing is going to play out on Goodreads. On the other hand I hardly ever go there myself. For a while I tried to get active in relevant sections but I found them generally hostile to writers. It could be I was in the wrong groups (one group had a minority who was offended that writers wanted to get paid; we should work for tips), it could be that as I’m self-published I’m just not taken seriously. For me, at any rate, the stress (“do I say anything on this topic? do I want to risk alienating people?”) did not outweigh any seen benefit.

    • Rob, I’m wondering the same thing myself re: who can and can’t write reviews, which is why I’d like to see some sort of editorial firewall between the two entities. That’s an interesting observation concerning the minority who felt that authors shouldn’t be paid. I get, albeit on rare occasions, much the same reaction when I bill for legal services. The response I have gotten is: “Huh? Why should you charge? You’ve got a job!”

  3. I’m wondering if Amazon sees this as an opportunity to change their system in the customer reviews arena on books. They could link GR independent reviews to their site, like many other online retailers do, and get out of maintaining their own reviews eliminating staff from dealing with the disputes & squabbles. Or they could incorporate GR reviews and double up on the reviews.

    If they DO incorpirate

    • Sorry my keyboard died. I couldn’t even fix my typo.

      If GR reviews are used, they hopefully will fix how the SPOILER ALERTS control works. Last I checked, if a reviewer includes spoilers, the GR way to warn a reader that the review contains spoilers does not translate to any other system that links to GR.

  4. Good morning, Jordan. That’s an excellent point and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. And re: spoilers…I try to avoid those at all costs in my reviews. It’s unfair not only to the reader, but also to the author, who in almost every case sweated blood to carve out the twists and turns which make their work worth reading.

    • I know, Joe. Some readers don’t realize what a spoiler is when they reveal too much of the plot in sharing their enthusiasm. I even got a one star review because one reader didn’t like the spoilers in another reader’s review. Ha! They were reviewing their reviews apparently.

      Reviewers gone wild…

    • Any quote that quotes the three stooges deserves a quoted quote from a quoter of quotes …. nyuk nyuk nyuk (which is Japanese for ‘my that was a good quote’)

  5. If Amazon keeps the links to its competition intact and improves the user interface I see this as a good thing.

    If they alter the site too much and make it cater to Amazon only then people will simply leave, followed closely by the birth of Goodreads II.

    I think the former will most likely happen as the real prize in this deal is the data Goodreads has. This is what Amazon really wants and if they change the site to lean their way it will alter the data they wish to mine.

    That doesn’t mean Goodreads II won’t appear soon anyway, but…

    • That’s an interesting observation, Randall, re: the alteration of data as the result of changing the site. While the temptation to tinker with a newly acquired toy can be irresistible, I hope that Amazon doesn’t succumb to the temptation.

  6. Okay. I confess. I’m a GoodReader.

    GR has nice chat and interesting heads-up on (you guessed it) some darn Good Reads. It’s a great place for new writers to hook up and talk about this “thing of ours.”

    I wrote the following to one of our Action/Aficionado volunteer moderators this morning.

    To I, Curmudgeon:

    I have no ax to grind with Amazon. I like Amazon. But is this the beginning of the end? Or is it just another day?

    Please advise.

    • Jim, as with so many things, the jury is still out. BTW, I like Amazon too, for any number of reasons. It has TOTALLY changed the way I buy everything, except for groceries. But. It occasionally makes me nervous.

  7. I’m unhappy with the possible implications for reviews.

    I love writing reviews for GoodReads because the star ratings are less inflated than at amazon and have a more concrete meaning. GoodReads provides a common standard for each star rating: 1star: did not like it; 2stars: it was OK 3stars: liked it 4stars: really liked it 5stars: it was amazing.

    Granted, that’s not a hard and fast guideline, but it’s better than amazon. When I leave a review on amazon, I feel guilty if I give anything less than 4 stars because it seems most readers (and authors) see the lower ratings as “it sucked.”

    Plus the whole can of worms already mentioned here, about amazon’s restrictions on who can write reviews, and issues about “ownership” of the review comments.

    I’d rather these two book giants had remained separate but my opinion on this doesn’t matter much.

    • Amy, I would respectfully disagree about your opinion not mattering much. If a bunch of like-minded people go elsewhere or indicate an inclination to do so Amazon may well take notice. Let them know how you feel. And thanks for letting us know.

  8. I see the future of Goodreads as nothing but an advertising/marketing arm of Amazon. Why else would Amazon fork out the Big Bucks to buy a book site for readers, if not to use it as a way to funnel readers over into Kindle/Amazon purchases of the books readers are talking about? Out of the goodness of their heart? Puh-leeze. Does anybody really think they’re going to link to B&N, Apple, Kobo, independent bookstores, or, Odin forbid, libraries that will let you read the book for free?

    If you’re an Amazon slave and want to buy all of your books from Amazon then you’ll probably be happy with the Amazon owned Goodreads. If you’re not, then you might as well go ahead and delete that Goodreads account.

  9. Catfriend, I think you’ve targeted the concern of many over this purchase, and also hit on what is really my only objection to e-books and e-readers in general. If the idea is to make it easier to get reading material into the hands of readers then to my mind I would prefer being able to read the e-book I purchased on the e-reader I purchased, regardless of where I purchased the book and what e-reader I am using. In other words, if I buy an e-book from B & N I’d like to be able to read it on a Kindle, and vice versa. I buy music all over the place (primarily from eMusic) and put it on my iPod; why not have the same convenience with respect to reading? Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if things played out as you have predicted. It would, however, be nice to be surprised.

  10. This is not dissimilar from eBay buying PayPal. Most changes were not for the good. For example, shortly after the PayPal buyout, ebay eliminated checks and money orders as a payment option “for the safety of the sellers.” My how convenient that every last seller was required to use PayPal as a payment option and give eBay another 3.5% of every sale. In Australia (if I remember correctly) ebay tried to push it too far and limit payment options to PayPal only and ran afoul of the government. So, in the US, you can choose PayPal or a couple of other funky imitators – Amazon is not a payment option.

    Amazon did the deal for one reason – it benefits Amazon. No, I am not an Amazon “slave” (yeesh, drama much?) and I only putter on GR. Like another poster said, they are after the data. We’ll see how much having Amazon on the letterhead skews that data. There are other sites. It will be interesting to see if they can pick up the game.


    • Indeed, Terri, people react and I would imagine that some of the other sites will move quickly to point out the differences between themselves and Goodreads. The circus in the next few months should be very interesting.

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