I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled posts to comment on last week’s big announcement. By now we’ve all heard the news: Amazon has acquired Goodreads. (If by chance this is the first you’re hearing of it, no, I’m not April Fooling you.) The news broke last Thursday, and I’m clearly not intending to add anything to the discussion that hasn’t been said already. This is just my own reaction.
I don’t own a Kindle, and I haven’t bought anything (book or otherwise) through Amazon in years. I don’t have anything against them, exactly; I just don’t use them. So, my big question regarding this acquisition is, of course…
How is this going to affect me?
At this point, we don’t really know much. If you haven’t read them yet, here are links to the Goodreads announcement, the Amazon press release, and an interview with representatives from the two sides. The only additional info I caught over the weekend was the amount of the sale… and then of course a lot of reaction and speculation about what the sale means for Goodreads users. But it all adds up to one big question mark.
My biggest concern is the website and the way I use it staying the same. And unfortunately, all of the “we don’t plan on making any changes, it’s important to us to stay a place for all readers” assurances are coming from the Goodreads spokespeople, not from Amazon. The quotes from the Amazon side have been predictably vague, worthy of a political campaign. After the deal is finalized, Amazon will be the ones calling the shots, and if they do come in and make sweeping changes, we’ll come back to these quotes and realize they really didn’t promise anything at all.
But let’s say they don’t come in and make sweeping changes. Let’s say they don’t clutter the site with ads; let’s say they don’t take away links to Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Kobo, and other retailers; let’s say they don’t mess with the recommendations algorithms; let’s say they don’t impose new restrictions on reviews; let’s say they don’t automatically cross post our reviews to Amazon; let’s say they don’t [insert a million other possible changes here]. Let’s say that the Goodreads experience remains exactly what it is now.
There are still two other issues, more about principle than practicality. First, am I comfortable with Amazon having access to the data I have on Goodreads? And second, am I comfortable “supporting” the demise of Goodreads as an independent, reader-focused community? I know some people have already withdrawn from the site, exported all their info and deleted their accounts, based just on this. They don’t care if it remains exactly as-is, they don’t want to be a part of it anymore.
(On a side-note, I’m surprised that much of the outcry against this deal is actually coming from loyal Amazon customers who just don’t like the idea of everything being connected. “I like using both sites, but I use them for completely different purposes,” seems to be a common reaction. I expected a lot of anti-Amazon sentiment, but with this twist, the number of people actually excited about the new possibilities seems to be a very small percentage of current Goodreads users. Of course, that’s just based on those who are being vocal about their opinions.)
I can see the apprehension over the first issue, although it really doesn’t bother me so much. I go under the assumption that anything I put on the internet is fair game, whether the information is supposed to be kept private or not. Information always has value, and the only way to keep anything truly safe is to not put it out there.
As far as the second goes, I don’t know that there ARE any independent sites similar to Goodreads. Amazon already owns Shelfari. They have a share in LibraryThing (though not a majority, as far as I know). Those are the big three book cataloging sites. I’m sure there are others, but how efficient are they, and what kind of a community do they have? Because that’s really what I use Goodreads for — the community. Yeah, it’s a helpful way to keep track of the books I read, but I keep all that information in my own spreadsheet as well. I use Goodreads, not for my own record-keeping, but to share what I’m reading with others, and to see what others are reading.
So… what’s the bottom line? Wait and see, I guess. When we have more information, I’ll figure out what I want to do… and if I do make the decision to leave Goodreads, it won’t be lightly.
If you’re currently on Goodreads, what are your thoughts on the change? Are you excited for integration with the Kindle? Are you looking at other options? Do you not care one way or the other? And if you use a different site, what do you think of it? I may be in the market to make a switch soon…