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Thursday, April 4, 2013

A bookkseller's view of the Goodreads sale

You and your reading habits are not data

\As we all know by now, Goodreads, a popular website that enables millions of book lovers to catalogue and discuss their favorite books with other readers, has just been bought by Amazon for an undisclosed sum. The internet has gone wild. Some have angrily cancelled their Goodreads accounts, while others have expressed great hopes that the rebooted Amazon version will be a lot easier to navigate.  But no one has really wondered what the Indie booksellers think.

Now Gibson's Bookstore, of Concord, New Hampshire, has expressed their forthright view -- revealing, at the same time, the probable reason for the takeover.

That Amazon regards readers' reading habits as data to be mined.

As they say, "No librarian or bookseller wants to give the government or anyone else access to your private information. It's in our DNA. We're a community center and a community resource. You want to be able to come in and talk to us about books. You don't want us to gossip about your reading habits to the next guy who comes in, whether that guy is your neighbor or from the FBI. We don't do it. We won't do it.
"When we remember what you like, it's in service of a personal relationship. It's not "data" to "exploit." This is a profession with professional standards.
"So when Amazon bought Goodreads for the purpose of data mining, so that they could target their marketing efforts at readers across the nation, we were appalled. This kind of tactic is alien to us professionally."
It takes me back to the time when librarians were ordered to hand over borrowing records, in what (as far as I know) was a fruitless attempt to track down incipient terrorists.  The theory, I suppose, was that a guy who liked borrowing books about bombs was likely to make one.
In this case, it is a little different. The robots at Amazon would simply recommend more books about bombs!  Which is an interesting thought...
With thanks to Jacqueline Church Simonds.

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