Friday Reads: Amazon Acquires Goodreads: Thoughts From Experts

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This week, I’d like to focus on yesterday’s big news: Amazon bought the social reading site Goodreads. Since I believe in social reading despite its issues, I am both excited and confused by this acquisition. I’m excited because I own a Kindle, read a lot of books and articles on it, and I’d love a way to share my notes and highlights with my Goodreads community. However, I’m also confused for two reasons: 1.) Amazon already owns a social reading service called Shelfari, and 2.) I don’t know whether this is a move  to support the large Goodreads community or to silence it and fold it into the Kindle sharing network at kindle.amazon.com.

I use Goodreads to keep track of my books, communicate with members of my local book club at Afterwords Books, and follow events happening at my local library. I also use it to follow my favorite writers. I don’t want to see these services go away once Amazon has control.

At the same time, I’ve always wanted to share my notes and highlights from my Kindle to Goodreads. Currently, it’s only possible to share notes and highlights to Facebook or Twitter. I hope this acquisition will bring more robust note-sharing tools to the Goodreads platform.

Also, I’d love to see Amazon integrate some type of book exchange system through Goodreads. I could see Amazon’s used ebook store platform (now just a credible rumor) integrated with the Goodreads platform. Goodreads already gives away ebooks on their site, so this is possible.

Last night, I went through some articles about the Goodreads acquisition. Over at Paid Content, Laura Hazard Owen interviewed Vice President of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti and Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler. When asked about how the Kindle platform will integrate into Goodreads, Grandinetti said:

Our goal would be…[for] the Kindle experience as it exists both on devices and apps, [to put] putting the connection [users] have on Goodreads as close to their fingertips as possible. When and how we do that, I’ll ask you to stay tuned.

While it’s not a full answer, this suggests better Kindle integration on Goodreads is coming soon.

Owen also asked Chandler about other book services connected to Goodreads, such as Barnes and Noble and Indiebound. Will these stay? Chandler said:

It’s incredibly important to us that Goodreads remain a platform for all kinds of readers to use, whether they’re reading paper or on their Nook or Kindle or whatever. We always want Goodreads to be a place for people to share and talk about books…As for specific design of [the links], we’ll see, but we really think about it from the user perspective. If users really want those links [to other retailers], then those links will probably still be there.

On one level, this is encouraging, but I can’t imagine Amazon keeping the competition on Goodreads in the long-term.

Over at Digital Book World, Jeremy Greenfield quoted from Goodreads user comments to see what they thought of the Amazon acquisition. Most users were upbeat, but some feared that Amazon would use the platform to push Amazon products. One user, Norma, responded to Otis Chandler’s announcement about the acquisition:

While happy for you in that you see a sale as all your hard work paying off, I’m sure you’ll understand that there are many reasons for your long-time community members to be less excited. We have all experienced our favorite online corners being sold to the big guys, assured that nothing would change…and then everything changes.

I no longer read on a Kindle, so integration means nothing to me. My bigger fear is that Goodreads will become another vehicle for Amazon to attempt to continuously sell me something.

I hope Amazon will keep the platform separate from its retail business, but it’s possible that Goodreads could become another retail place. However, Amazon owns other services that remain independent, like IMDb. It’s possible Goodreads would stay independent as well.

We’ll see what happens with this news. I will keep up to date about the acquisition on Twitter and Facebook as it develops.

About Kevin Eagan

Kevin Eagan (@criticalmargins) is a freelance editor, writer, and teacher who lives in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. In addition to writing about book technology and teaching college students how to write, Kevin works as an associate editor for punctum books. Previously, he was the books editor for Blogcritics. You can also follow him on Google+ or check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.

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  • Pingback: What could happen from Amazon buying Goodreads: 6 good news and 11 bad news | Matt Maldre

  • http://mattmaldre.wordpress.com mattmaldre

    I just read the paid content article linked in your post. I never knew Amazon owns Zappos and IMDB.

    • http://criticalmargins.com Kevin Eagan

      Yes, they own quite a few companies that aren’t just about retail sales. That’s why I hope goodreads stays somewhat independent.

  • http://thekindlechronicles.com Len

    This strikes me as a fair and insightful summary of the pros and cons of the Goodreads acquisition, Kevin. This one is going to give us a good benchmark against which to measure Amazon’s commitment to readers over the mid- to long term. My hunch is that Otis Chandler is the key player, and his passion and focus will keep Amazon on track with whatever promises were made to convince him to take this step, in addition to the money. Tony Hsieh of Zappos seems to have kept that acquisition from detracting from his creation’s continued success, so Chandler may be able to do the same. Good post!

    • http://criticalmargins.com Kevin Eagan

      Thanks, Len!

      I do hope to see the best of both worlds result from this acquisition: better integration between Goodreads and the Kindle platform but little interference with the Goodreads community. Zappos is a good comparison. It seems Otis Chandler’s vision is still in place as this transition comes through, which is good to know.

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