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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Goodreads controversy

The Authors Guild has blasted Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads.

But many authors do not agree.

"Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher," begins the Authors Guild online bulletin.

"In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable."

Scott Turow, the president, weighed in with passion.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” he wrote. “The key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat. With its 16 million subscribers, Goodreads could easily have become a competing on-line bookseller, or played a role in directing buyers to a site other than Amazon. Instead, Amazon has scuttled that potential and also squelched what was fast becoming the go-to venue for on-line reviews, attracting far more attention than Amazon for those seeking independent assessment and discussion of books. As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information.”

The comments are mixed, to say the very least.

"Personally, I hope Amazon makes Goodreads more user friendly," wrote Debra Holland, an Amazon bestselling author. "I think it's a cumbersome and frustrating site. I also think it's just as easy to post a false review on Goodreads as on Amazon. I think with Amazon's backing, Goodreads has the potential to become more informative and user-friendly for both authors and readers. For example, I bet Amazon will be able to make it so authors can do free give-aways of their ebooks. Now Goodreads only allows print books as free giveaways."

"Totally agree with you, this is fear mongering," wrote Claude Nougat. "The future could be very positive for authors, provided Amazon leaves Goodreads exactly the way it is, i.e. independent. On the technical aspects, some Amazon backing would be welcome. Goodreads could certainly use a little electronic sprucing up, it's system is really antiquated and slow!"

"Scott Turow's thinking mirrors my own exactly," wrote Charlotte Vale-Allen. "Amazon is well on its way to becoming the only game in town, making ever smaller the arena in which people are able to voice their opinions on the books they read. It's a nightmare."

To which Dana Stabenow had one pertinent comment: "Have you seen all the book blogs out there?"

Good point, commented Margaret Koch. "Anyone can start a blog and review books. If the reviews are well done, the blog attracts a following. We have entered a period of rapid change in publishing. Amazon will have its time as a big player, but there will be others, if they're good. This is just the beginning, and it's exciting. We shouldn't be afraid."

Hit the link at the top to read the rest of this intriguing discussion and find out what many authors do think about the acquisition of Goodreads.  And what do you think?


Francine Howarth said...

Of course Amazon will restrict reviews and recommendations for books that are sold on other platforms (eventually) by stealth means. Beyond that I cannot see how Goodreads will enhance author sales any more than it already has or hasn't: given some of the shocking reviews/spoilers plus the occasional author and reader spats. After all, Amazon have their own review site Shelfari, which is much easier to navigate than Goodreads... What's the betting they switch the Shelfari system to Goodreads? ;)

Buck said...

I like Goodreads' reviews better than Amazon's. I'm a bit saddened to see it go.