Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Does Amazon's Purchase of Goodreads Mean for Authors?

If you follow publishing/bookselling news, you will have heard that Amazon has purchased Goodreads, the huge, 16-million-member, social media site where readers and writers come together to discuss, review, promote, and share a love of books. I’ve been a member for over three years and have found it to be a terrific way to discover writers from around the world.

So, why does Amazon want it? I suppose the obvious answer is to continue building a monopoly. Let’s face it, Amazon has expanded big time in recent years, not only in their bookselling ventures, but in publishing. I don’t have to elaborate on their success with CreateSpace and Kindle. Amazon purchased Shelfari in 2008 and they also own a portion of LibraryThing. Does it sound like Amazon intends to rule the book world?

It’s likely that Amazon will eventually turn Goodreads into one large promotion venture to serve their interests, which may or may not be good news for writers, depending on your viewpoint. Authors whose books aren’t selling will welcome the appearance of a buy button next to their titles.

Amazon’s excelled at book selling on some levels but has also failed authors in others. Kindles have helped new authors gain readers and earn money, yet when Amazon introduced secondhand print bookselling, it pretty much killed print sales for independents and small publishers. Other new policies have also hurt writers and publishers, and for me this is a worry. Will Amazon’s bookselling strategies extend to Goodreads? Will it become an Amazon sales only please, world?

Needless to say, blogs, articles, and discussions about this have sprung up everywhere, so here’s three links to get you started. The Publisher’s Weekly article gives a pretty interesting account. In fact, Amazon is quoted as saying that they “want to improve the user experience of Kindle owners”. So, what about the 75% of readers who still buy print? You can find it at

Another interesting take on the situation comes from Tim Spalding of LibraryThing, who thinks the acquisition is good, even though Amazon’s purchase of Shelfari has left it more or less languishing. He also notes, probably correctly, that once Amazon is running things, Goodreads may very well drop, and be dropped by B&N, Kobo and Indies, which isn’t good news for a lot of people. To read his piece, go to

Meanwhile, Authors Guild President, Scott Turow, sees Amazon’s monopolization as a means of squelching potential competition, given that Goodreads was rumored to be entering the bookselling business. Also, Goodreads is the site people go to for honest book reviews. What will happen when Amazon starts controlling things? You can read his remarks in

What do you all think about this? Is Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads, good, bad, or somewhere in between? Like I said, I’m a little worried.

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