To GoodRead or not to GoodRead

(Sorry, couldn’t help but follow up on my last blog title…)

English: Amazon Kindle wordmark.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia) – Seems so innocent with that little suggestion of a smile, huh?

I’m sure you have heard. You are all intrepid bloggers, up on the latest in the writing/reading industry so I’m sure you don’t need this summary, but here it goes:

Amazon bought out GoodReads.

What does this mean?

Well, if you don’t use GoodReads, it means pretty much nothing. Go ahead, skip to the end of the blog where I list my current reads.

If you do use GoodReads, it means the data you voluntarily submit to the site; what you read, what you want to read and what you think about everything you read; will be used for nefarious Amazon purposes. Exactly what their aims are, we don’t know – yet. But we can surmise it will feed their search and recommendation engines. And, of course, they’ll figure out a way to sell us more books!

Is that bad?

On the surface, not necessarily. But when one looks deeper, it just gets a little creepy.

Amazon has also bought out Stanza (yeah, that App you can use to buy and read stuff from a variety of sources, including Smashwords). They also acquired Shelfari, Audible, The Book Depository, and Abe Books. And, now, of course, GoodReads. Oh, and they even own a good chunk of LibraryThing.

Where does it end? Will Amazon know ALL our reading habits? Will all our book purchases be filtered, somehow and someway, through Amazon? Has anyone ever heard of the word m-o-n-o-p-o-l-y?

Right now, self-publishers and independent book sellers are cautioning everyone that we can handle the big gorilla in the room. I mean, Amazon has been good for “the little” authors who can’t get the exposure that authors with the big publishing houses get, right?

Well, yes, but what about me the reader? Will every reading choice I make be cataloged, entered into a massive database and used to determine what to sell me? The cynic in me knows that the entire internet is based on acquiring data about us and using it to sell us something, so why get up in arms about Amazon?

One simple reason – choice. (Don’t argue with me about the illusion of choice. Just pretend we have it, okay?)

Once Amazon controls every online book community, it controls what we see and when.

Admit it. We are all busy. No one can read every book out there, nor can we read every book out there that we want to read. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Even if all we ever had to do was read, we couldn’t get through the thousands and thousands of books available. So, we have to choose what to read. And since we all want to read something good, something that appeals to us, we often turn to our friends, who are much like us, for recommendations.

Every book I have ever read that I thought was great was recommended to me by friends. Rare are the occasions that I find a book I think is great while browsing the store shelves (either physically or virtually). Yes, it does happen, but it is rare. And when I do find a book I think is great, what do I do? I tell my friends. Funny how that word-of-mouth thing works, huh? But, now, instead of getting recommendations from friends on GoodReads, or seeing what my friends are reading on GoodReads, I’ll be seeing recommendations from Amazon.

Come on, folks, don’t give me that bullshit that Amazon isn’t going to mess with how GoodReads does their business. They own GoodReads now. Of course, they’ll change things.

And what if I don’t own a Kindle? I don’t. I own a Nook. I buy books from Barns and Noble, who provide their e-books in ePub format (which I can transfer to any other eReader device). Yeah, the Nook is tied to Barns and Noble just as much as the Kindle is tied to Amazon, but I can take my content where ever I want. I also own an iPhone, on which I have installed the Kindle app. I still buy books from Amazon, and I read them there because I can’t convert (most of) them to ePub format and put them on my eReader of choice (which happens to be the Nook). Once GoodReads has been fully integrated with Amazon, will I only get recommendations for books available for the Kindle, thus driving me further away from my eReader of choice?

Of course, if that happens, I will leave GoodReads. I like GoodReads because I get to see what my friends are reading. I like having a running list of the books I want to read, and the books I have read. I don’t go there to get recommendations from someone trying to sell me something.

What do you think? Can we tame the big gorilla?

Also, what are you reading? Here’s what is on my Nook and Kindle App:

  • Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen (non-fiction) (good stuff)
  • Third Shift – Pact (Part 8 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey (great stuff)
  • No Place Like Amestraton by Chris Mitchell (haven’t started reading)
  • God Doesn’t; We Do by James A. Lindsay (good by repetitive)
  • Menial: Skilled Labor (anthology from Crossed Genres) (some good shorts in there)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (haven’t started reading)
  • Astronomy – April 2013 (magazine subscription)
  • The Betrayed by Igor Ljubuncic (okay, not finished)
  • Doctor Ramani’s Children (short stories) by G. S. Hargrave (lovely collection)
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20 thoughts on “To GoodRead or not to GoodRead

  1. This news unsettled me, too. I was going to write a blog post about it, but now that you have I don’t know if I’ll bother – the idea of coming up with something you haven’t already said fills me with ennui.
    Like you, I’m not optimistic that Amazon won’t screw up Goodreads, given they way they tend to throw their weight around at the slightest opportunity (sometimes for no apparent reason other than to be a jerk). I’m not _hugely_ invested in Goodreads, myself, so it won’t be a big deal to just quietly withdraw if they start screwing it up, at least.
    The interesting thing is that usually I get more worked up about Amazon acting like a Monosopy, but now I have to be worried about their monopolistic tendencies too.
    This could all be potentially solved if Amazon shareholders would actually insist on them turning a friggin’ profit, but they seem scarily content to let them play a long game of slowly killing off everyone else’s business.

    1. Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s like they don’t want you to get books from somewhere else, anywhere else, even if that means they have to throw books at the back of your head to knock you out.

      1. The part that worries me is that Amazon really really doesn’t care about books. A lot of traditional booksellers may be incompetent and socially awkward, and traditional publishers may be inefficient and often piratical, but at least they all got into the business because at some level they care about books.

      2. Really? I’ve read some saying Amazon *does* care about books and especially independent writers. What makes you think they don’t? Sounds like a blog post is in order…

    2. Oh, and bonus points on using the word ‘ennui’. Good one! But I do hope you write the blog post and offer your own thoughts on the subject.

      1. Any day I can use “ennui” and “monosopy” in one comment is a good one. As for Amazon caring about authors, Cat Valente put it better than I could (no surprise there): “Amazon is and should be seen by everyone who lists their books with them not as a savior but as a brute beast that you can strap yourself to for the present, but never forget that they can trample you, and you may want to leave a knot or two lose for a quick escape.”
        Personally, I don’t think Jeff Bezos cares much more about books than he does lamps or wrenches or socks and so on he sells (not that he is obliged to, just sayin’).

    1. Yeah, me, too. I already thought it was getting to be kind of a burden with one more thing to do on the internet, but I really did like the lists. I guess I’ll just have to go back to writing it down.

  2. I don’t spend too much time on Goodreads, either, although when I’m really in the mood for researching next reads, I do find the Goodreads reviews much more useful that the Amazon ones. I think that has more to do with the goodreads members (which may change on acquisition) and less to do with the site itself, though, but hard to say.

    Who ever owned it, I’d pay for a site that let the community police reviews and, more importantly, let the community designate good, critical reviewers. Amazon has some coarse means of doing that but it doesn’t really seem to work out all that well in practice.

      1. Yes, I’d pay for a site with useful reader reviews (if I couldn’t get it for free- at present, Goodreads serves that purpose for me). I do check out Amazon reviews because they are convenient but there is a very high noise to signal ratio, i.e., a lot of junk to wade through.

        I think all the pieces are in place for better user reviews but I think the vendor controlled sites have limited reason to deploy them.

      2. Interesting. I never really thought about that angle. I guess that is essentially why I go to GoodReads – for what I think will be unbiased and thorough reviews. I just never really thought of paying for that information…interesting…

        I guess, we used to, didn’t we? In the form of reviews in newspapers and magazines. Those publications were paid for, and the publisher in turn paid the reviewer for their reviews.

        I suppose the internet has cluttered up that system of reviews (along with everything else).

      3. Yep! I think we’ve definitely become spoiled but this also could be better than the old paid magazines: instead of trusting a few reviewers, who in the end, have their own biases, the web *should* allow us to check a larger sampling of “proven” reviewers” folks the community have found to offer a good, critical response. You *should* be able to look at ratings from everyone, from registered users, from proven users and from “star” reviewers (here a star isn’t someone who has written 10,000 reviews but one whose opinion the community thinks is valuable). Amazon could do this but apparently doesn’t see the need although given how lousy their reviews have become, seems like they should.
        I think it will happen eventually but it may take a while yet. Perhaps if folks flee a post Amazon goodreads, the next “goodreads” will invest more on this.

    1. Hey Rob! Yeah, I know. I didn’t mean to rant, but just wanted to see how other folks were thinking of the whole thing.

      Would be nice to go back to the mom and pop stores, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon…

      1. Nothing wrong with a little rant now and then. I’ve been ranted out lately. The Amazon thing is a lot like the banks in getting so big they can’t be allowed to fail maybe. Also, information is so vital these days, the person or company who controls it can do a lot of damage if they chose to put out false information for financial gain.

      2. Yeah, and that’s the thing that bugs me. Amazon already has so much information on me and now they want more? (That’s one reason why they bought GoodReads, for their database.)

  3. It is concerning, not that they have bought Good Reads specifically, but that they have already bought so many other book communities. Is this monopoly by the back door? Aren’t there rules about this sort of thing?

    I’m watching with a growing sense of concern.

      1. I remember a time when there used to be rules about monopolies. But I guess that was thrown out as part of the “liberal agenda to destroy capitalism” or some such :p

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