| |

A Touch of Paranoia – Brought to You by Amazon.com

amazon I have been a loyal Amazon customer. If I am going to buy a book, new chances are Amazon will either be shipping it to me or sending it to my Kindle. I am also a member of the Goodreads community. My primary reason for being a member is simple: Their online listing of books I’ve read or want to read via shelves I can create for myself is far superior to my former methodology of keeping a list on a word document. Since I like both companies I shouldn’t feel at all threatened by the recent buyout, right? Wrong.

My first reaction on learning that Amazon had purchased Goodreads was a twinge of fear. I know that I was not alone in feeling that. All over the internet, the reactions tended to be negative or at the very least concerned. For people who read, this is very big news. My fellow AAR reviewers are no exception. When discussing it over the last few days, the majority of us expressed some form of concern. Jenna summed it up best when she explained:

This (news) did make me groan. I use Goodreads as a way to keep inventory of my books (I also use LibraryThing) and as a place to check out general reviews and reactions to a book. I tended to see Goodreads as a bit less corrupted than Amazon reviews as far as reader reviews, although I don’t know why I thought this. Kind of like Amazon reviews come from the “writer-groupies” while Goodreads was more of a true book-lovers review aggregate *g*. I know this is silly.

Now, however, Goodreads has been consumed by the Great Satan and I won’t feel that I can trust it. I also am a bit more reluctant to rely on it for keeping track of my own books and reading intentions because it’s got a Big Brother entity watching my every move. I’d also be concerned that my Goodreads info will be used to channel more advertising at me.

So I’m sad to see this. I do use Amazon a lot and really appreciate the service it offers, but I hate seeing it gobble up so many things.

Wendy echoed the concern of having one company involved in so much, “It just chaps me that the people selling books will also control a popular site that reviews them. Is GR going to become Harriet Klausner.com?”

For me, this was part and parcel of why I felt that twinge of fear. In the past it has been easy for authors to remove negative reviews from Amazon. Does that mean Goodreads could soon become a place where every novel receives a five star review?

Caz thinks not, “Maybe I’m just being hopelessly naive, but not only am I not all that surprised, I’m not all that worried. I like Amazon – I’ve never had any problems with them and their customer service has always been excellent. I don’t think that Audible has suffered because of the Amazon take-over and I hope that the management at Amazon is savvy enough to know what GRs users like about it and do their best not to alienate too many of them. In one of the pieces I read yesterday, their emphasis seemed to be in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mold. I’m sure there will be changes – I don’t object to some sort of integration with Kindle, for example – but as long as they’re not changes for changes sake, then I won’t mind.”

The integration with Kindle brings up an important point regarding the current relationship between book sellers and Goodreads. Currently, under the section outlining book details Goodreads has a line that says “Get a Copy”. The buttons along this line are for Barnes & Noble, Libraries and online stores. Amazon is one of several options offered under online stores. I seriously doubt though that a site owned by Amazon will continue to make Barnes & Noble the premiere buying option. Will it even offer it as an option at all? Will other book sellers be equally represented? Why would Amazon tolerate that when it would simply feed business to its competition? The simple fact is that the buyout will mean a hit – however minor – in sales for some of the other book sellers.

This is already true of Shelfari where my two buying options are from Amazon and Abe Books (owned by Amazon). In fact the two are so integrated that when I went to Shelfari to sign up I found myself doing so via my Amazon account. There was an option to do so utilizing another method but it was clear Amazon was the preferred course.

And this brings me to my main concern – just how much of the book world will Amazon soon possess? They already own Brilliance Audio, Audible.com, BookSurge, Shelfari, Abe Books, BookFinder.com, The Book Depository and an interest in Library Thing. As pollster Lee Brewer put it, “I just think it’s bad when one company swallows up smaller ones. Yeah, they may not change things, but it’s just disturbing that there is some behemoth that wants to control the world.”

Reviewer Pat carried the opposite position, “Sometimes behemoths swallowing minnows is good. A lot of small town newspapers would have folded if they hadn’t been bought by chains that helped revenue them. I can think of other examples of this, too. Amazon doesn’t seem to change what they buy, just like some of the newspaper chains didn’t change the smaller papers. Actually, if we look at this historically, I’m sure we can find instance after instance of something larger overtaking something smaller, and the outcome going both ways—for the better and for the worse.”

So there you have it – our positive and negative thoughts on this newest shakeup in the book world. Do you use Goodreads? Do you think things will simply go on same as usual? Or do you believe Amazon will be making a few changes?

– Maggie Boyd

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments