Has Amazon Ruined Goodreads?

It’s a burden being right all the time. Not too long ago I wrote a post stating that Amazon needs to embrace social media. And what happened? Amazon bought Goodreads, the leading social media site for book readers. Did I call it or what?

Well, not really. I had imagined Amazon introducing some homegrown social solutions. But I forgot the Golden Rule: when you’re as big as Amazon, you don’t have to make your own products; you just have to buy other people’s. So Amazon saw what Goodreads had created and got them some of that. But is this a good thing for readers?

Otis Chandler, one of the founders of Goodreads, claims that he sold the site to Amazon for three reasons:

• Greater reach – Amazon can extend Goodreads services to all of its customers now;
• Ereader integration – Amazon can now bring social interaction directly into the reading experience;
• Independence – Amazon will keep their hands off the wheel.

Yeah, I’m not buying that last one.

That Goodreads was an independent entity was what made it so great. It fostered a truly open environment and encouraged free discussion. Goodreads was somewhere you could go to talk books online without a salesman taking notes over your shoulder. But now it has a vested interest in making you buy from Amazon. Cue heavy advertising, links aplenty and pretty soon features will be exclusive to the Kindle. And Goodreads will exist solely to build up Amazon and break down its competition.

Are there any upsides to the deal? I’m not counting all these social reading ideas; reading will always be a solitary experience no matter how many buttons you add to the ereader. But Amazon will bring money and resources to the party. That might help Goodreads develop their mobile app, for instance, or improve the online interface. And it’s unlikely that Amazon are going to mess much the site, other than channeling buyers to their site. So the Goodreads we know won’t go anywhere any time soon.

But the data belongs to the Mighty Zon now. That will be a bitter pill for some people to swallow.

But perhaps I’m being too negative. What do you think? Is Amazon going to break Goodreads or can things only get better?

2 thoughts on “Has Amazon Ruined Goodreads?

  1. Elizabeth Barone

    I’m not sure how I feel about this move yet.

    On one hand, it could be great for GR. Their site and app rock, but could definitely use some improvements. With Amazon’s budget, those upgrades could become a reality. (However, I’m not too excited about Amazon’s user interface, so hopefully they hire some new blood.) I also kind of like that they will be integrating Goodreads into Kindle. (It does suck that Goodreads will never be integrated into any other e-readers, though. I’ve been wishing for GR options inside of iBooks for a while.)

    I do have to wonder, though, whether this is all a conflict of interest. Like you said, Goodreads was its own entity, making it a safe haven for bookworms. People might be less inclined to be as active as they once were now that it’s part of the Amazon family. Plus, I’m curious as to what will happen to Shelfari—Amazon’s Goodreads equivalent. Will Shelfari disappear? Or will Goodreads become Shelfari?

    Only time will tell.

    The only thing I am sure of, though, is my resolve to not put all of my eggs in one proverbial basket. I’m still active on other social media. I cross-publish to almost a dozen ebook retailers. Amazon continues to be my strongest revenue source, but will never be my only source.

    1. James

      I couldn’t agree with you more on the eggs and baskets. Putting everything onto Amazon’s ticket is a very risky move. Even if someone doesn’t see any risk, it still excludes readers who don’t have Kindles or Kindle apps.

      I think Goodreads is actually going to go the same way as Shelfari; still there, still ticking over, but not a hotspot. I don’t think readers will like Goodreads being an Amazon satellite. That said, Kindle integration will be a life support machine.

      But I need to ask: what do you want out of Goodreads integration on the Kindle? I’m not sure I see the appeal.


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