A Touch of Paranoia – Brought to You by Amazon.com

amazon I have been a loyal Amazon customer. If I am going to buy a book, new chances are Amazon will either be shipping it to me or sending it to my Kindle. I am also a member of the Goodreads community. My primary reason for being a member is simple: Their online listing of books I’ve read or want to read via shelves I can create for myself is far superior to my former methodology of keeping a list on a word document. Since I like both companies I shouldn’t feel at all threatened by the recent buyout, right? Wrong.

My first reaction on learning that Amazon had purchased Goodreads was a twinge of fear. I know that I was not alone in feeling that. All over the internet, the reactions tended to be negative or at the very least concerned. For people who read, this is very big news. My fellow AAR reviewers are no exception. When discussing it over the last few days, the majority of us expressed some form of concern. Jenna summed it up best when she explained:

This (news) did make me groan. I use Goodreads as a way to keep inventory of my books (I also use LibraryThing) and as a place to check out general reviews and reactions to a book. I tended to see Goodreads as a bit less corrupted than Amazon reviews as far as reader reviews, although I don’t know why I thought this. Kind of like Amazon reviews come from the “writer-groupies” while Goodreads was more of a true book-lovers review aggregate *g*. I know this is silly.

Now, however, Goodreads has been consumed by the Great Satan and I won’t feel that I can trust it. I also am a bit more reluctant to rely on it for keeping track of my own books and reading intentions because it’s got a Big Brother entity watching my every move. I’d also be concerned that my Goodreads info will be used to channel more advertising at me.

So I’m sad to see this. I do use Amazon a lot and really appreciate the service it offers, but I hate seeing it gobble up so many things.

Wendy echoed the concern of having one company involved in so much, “It just chaps me that the people selling books will also control a popular site that reviews them. Is GR going to become Harriet Klausner.com?”

For me, this was part and parcel of why I felt that twinge of fear. In the past it has been easy for authors to remove negative reviews from Amazon. Does that mean Goodreads could soon become a place where every novel receives a five star review?

Caz thinks not, “Maybe I’m just being hopelessly naive, but not only am I not all that surprised, I’m not all that worried. I like Amazon – I’ve never had any problems with them and their customer service has always been excellent. I don’t think that Audible has suffered because of the Amazon take-over and I hope that the management at Amazon is savvy enough to know what GRs users like about it and do their best not to alienate too many of them. In one of the pieces I read yesterday, their emphasis seemed to be in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mold. I’m sure there will be changes – I don’t object to some sort of integration with Kindle, for example – but as long as they’re not changes for changes sake, then I won’t mind.”

The integration with Kindle brings up an important point regarding the current relationship between book sellers and Goodreads. Currently, under the section outlining book details Goodreads has a line that says “Get a Copy”. The buttons along this line are for Barnes & Noble, Libraries and online stores. Amazon is one of several options offered under online stores. I seriously doubt though that a site owned by Amazon will continue to make Barnes & Noble the premiere buying option. Will it even offer it as an option at all? Will other book sellers be equally represented? Why would Amazon tolerate that when it would simply feed business to its competition? The simple fact is that the buyout will mean a hit – however minor – in sales for some of the other book sellers.

This is already true of Shelfari where my two buying options are from Amazon and Abe Books (owned by Amazon). In fact the two are so integrated that when I went to Shelfari to sign up I found myself doing so via my Amazon account. There was an option to do so utilizing another method but it was clear Amazon was the preferred course.

And this brings me to my main concern – just how much of the book world will Amazon soon possess? They already own Brilliance Audio, Audible.com, BookSurge, Shelfari, Abe Books, BookFinder.com, The Book Depository and an interest in Library Thing. As pollster Lee Brewer put it, “I just think it’s bad when one company swallows up smaller ones. Yeah, they may not change things, but it’s just disturbing that there is some behemoth that wants to control the world.”

Reviewer Pat carried the opposite position, “Sometimes behemoths swallowing minnows is good. A lot of small town newspapers would have folded if they hadn’t been bought by chains that helped revenue them. I can think of other examples of this, too. Amazon doesn’t seem to change what they buy, just like some of the newspaper chains didn’t change the smaller papers. Actually, if we look at this historically, I’m sure we can find instance after instance of something larger overtaking something smaller, and the outcome going both ways—for the better and for the worse.”

So there you have it – our positive and negative thoughts on this newest shakeup in the book world. Do you use Goodreads? Do you think things will simply go on same as usual? Or do you believe Amazon will be making a few changes?

– Maggie Boyd

29 thoughts on “A Touch of Paranoia – Brought to You by Amazon.com

  1. My initial gut reaction is one of suspicion, but I’m still reading what’s out there and taking a “watch and wait” attitude. I know some of my online reading friends have already deleted their Goodreads accounts. I’m leaving my Goodreads account up at the moment, but we’ll see what happens when Amazon starts running the show.

    In addition to the concerns about Goodreads reviews becoming as unreliable as those on Amazon, I also found this blog piece(and the comments) over at VacuousMinx good food for thought: http://vacuousminx.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/psa-you-own-your-content-but-you-lease-it-to-gr-and-az-at-unfavorable-terms/

    Carolyn Jewel’s blog looks at the acquisition in a more positive light, and I appreciated that one, too: http://carolynjewel.com/wordpress/2013/03/29/amazon-and-goodreads-marriage-made-in-heaven/

    • My reaction is the same. I get the feeling, though, that it will become something I will eventually have to give up. Which is sad, because I love all of its capabilities. However, I do not want amazon choosing what comes in front of my face when I am there, and I will lose the option to buy a Nook book or link to BN with one click. I don’t have a kindle and I only buy from amazon what I cannot get reasonable from Barnes and Noble (or independent booksellers). So for now, I’m holding onto my account, but I am fairly resigned that eventually I will have to shut it down. I’ve already exported my books, converted it to a database and edited the data so that I can easily add books as necessary. It’s certainly not as pretty as Goodreads, but it works well enough I suppose.

  2. I won’t be touching my goodreads account. It’s too darn useful.

    Regarding reviews, I only take the word of people I know and trust. I doubt any of them will suddenly lie for Amazon so I should be safe :-)

  3. My understanding is that it is a parternship, and that they are retaining the same management? So why it is possible that buy buttons could disappear, I doubt that it will happen. At least not with the same people running things.

    So I am in a wait and see mode about that. Typically I buy books from the Amazon site and rarely use the links to Amazon.

    And as far as reviews go they are a mix bag on Amazon and Goodreads and so like you I depend on author’s name, and reviews from reliable sources. I do get burned every once in a while but usually I only take changes on books under $5.00.

    • Sorry – should say – so while it is possible that buy buttons could disappear

  4. I just canceled my membeship to Goodreads. I have a B&N Nook and not only were books ONLY available on Amazon, but when I clicked on the Barnes and Noble buy button, I would get a “sorry not available” message from the B&N website. Many times if I persevered, I would type the author’s name in the B&N search box and up popped the book I wanted. After reading about the Amazon acquisition of Goodreads, I can’t help but think this misdirection was deliberate.

    • I don’t know which books you were trying to buy but after reading your post I went to Goodreads, and clicked on five links to buy at Barnes and Noble and didn’t have a problem.

    • I just went over to goodreads and tried the B&N button on half a dozen books and it connected to the B&N website every time. Is this what you’re talking about? So for now, at least, the buttons are still operational.

      Some titles are only available on Kindle for a short time while they run as specials on Amazon. Usually that exclusivity is about 3 months.

    • I’m not sure what happened with your searches, but my husband has a Nook and I know he was using GR to buy from B&N this morning with no problem. Perhaps the error was on the B&N website end of things?

  5. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude. I really only use the site for tracking my Romance reading and getting recommendations from reviewers I’ve gotten to know and trust over the years. Social media is always evolving and nothing lasts for very long these days. That’s about the only thing I take as a given.

  6. I’m an Amazon Prime member and own a Kindle. I deleted my Goodreads account because I decided that I’m done with providing free content especially now that they’ve monetized it. I realize that GR was a start up looking to be bought out but the truth is, I was never a heavy user so deleting my account was a easy decision for me. Besides, I get annoyed with these companies buying up the competition only to put them out of business or let them languish after they’ve taken what they want from them. Reminds me of the evilness of Google. But GR wasn’t a competitor. They are in the data business and they just sold it all to ta da Amazon.

    • I like GR for tracking my own reading and chatting with other reviewers so like I said on Twitter earlier, I’m keeping a wait and see attitude for now. I hope they don’t try to make GR users sync their accounts with their Amazon accounts, though. Things like that might make me start looking elsewhere.

  7. I may be proved wrong in the long haul, but I don’t understand all the running around shouting “They sky is falling!” The internet is a big place, if Goodreads suffers from being bought by Amazon, something else will pop up to take it’s place.

    I have an Amazon account and an Audible account and I didn’t even know Amazon owned Audible for a long time. I only recently decided to use the same log in info for the two accounts and was certainly never forced to join the accounts. My Audible reviews have never ended up on Amazon, either. I’m invested in Goodreads and will be sad if it goes downhill, but I’m staying put until I see actual evidence that that’s happening.

    • Great point! If Goodreads becomes unreliable, then there will be a market for a better book data collection service. I’m keeping my GR account too until I see evidence of mismanagement, and then hopefully something else or better will exist to take its place.

  8. Like so many others, I am suspicious of what that means for the quaility of Goodreads reviews and their recommendations. The good news is that All About Romance’s reviews, special title listings and forum discussions will be all the more valuable to readers just like me.

  9. I’ve been on Shelfari for quite a few years now and never buy from Amazon. As far as I know, negative reviews don’t disappear there (I have written plenty of them :) ) so I don’t think they will disappear from Goodreads.
    That Amazon is a big shark and getting bigger all the time IS something to worry about though IMO, especially with regard to pricing.

    • Pricing is my big fear too. Amazon is making savvy business decisions while its competitors seem determined not to. The end result may very well be a world with a handful of independent book stores, the racks at discount stores and Amazon. In that climate I fear Amazon will hike up its prices. It’s already expensive to buy books, I don’t want it to get MORE expensive. ;-)

  10. Every time Amazon buys another company, I get a little bit more frightened that someday in the not too distant future we will be unable to purchase books in a bookstore. That’s why I have a Nook, and frequent my Barnes & Noble store. I also buy lots of gift certificates.

  11. I agree with a point that Jenna made. Amazon’s acquisition of Good Reads will provide them with lots of information on our reading habits and book purchases. It’s very likely the combined information will be used for targeted sales pitches. I’m troubled by this invasion of my privacy.

  12. I’m not going to get terribly worried. I like keeping track of my books on Goodreads, chat with my friends in a few groups, and read reviews from my friends. I pretty much ignore everything else.

    I can’t feel very sorry for Barnes and Noble because in THEIR early days THEY were the big competitor of the independent bookstore, which is all but gone now.

    Possibly the death of B&N (or at least it’s decline) will give some independent bookstores a foothold in the market once again.

  13. Like others on this thread, I am pro-Barnes & Noble. I have not been a fan of Amazon since I had a nasty experience with their customer service department some years ago, and when the e-reader wars began, I bought a NOOK, which I have been very happy with.

    I joined Goodreads a few years ago, but I honestly can’t find the time to post opinions, keep up with reviews, etc. (I barely find time to check reviews at AAR! :)) So if Amazon is getting involved–well, it’s just another acquisition for Jeff Bezos and company!

    As for independent bookstores–where I live (South Florida), they are very much alive and well. I think that especially since Borders closed, the independents have experienced a bit of a revival. The big indie here, Books and Books, has always done well; they sponsor the local book fair and provide a venue for many prominent authors who are promoting their books.

  14. I have a Goodreads account but I barely use it since I’ve stopped to make keep track of my reading. I used to have a list but I stopped since it made reading feel like a shore instead of something fun. I like Amazon and I buy all of my ebooks from them but I never order paper books from them since it’s way too expensive for me since I live in Sweden. I understand that people are worried when a large company buy their competitors and I feel the same. In Sweden for example the two largest book retailers will merge. Books will probably became more expensive and I’m going to continue to buy from the independent bookstore. Some of their book are more expensive than the large retailers, but their paperbacks are almost 50 % cheaper than the large retailers!

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  18. Is this a hype thing to make people aware of this amazon acquisition of GR? Please note that AAR book reviews are linked to amazon only, no other book store sites. One could get paranoid here and read all kind of things into it :-) I am just saying. No judgement here, it’s all good business for everyone involved.

    I think the purchase of GR will give amazon a lot of marketing insight, as mentioned. That’s simply the way the world turns these days. I have a running book and music wishlist on amazon, which I love and use all the time. They can customize their marketing to me all they want, it’s ultimately up to me to fall for that or not. Lots of companies get your personal information/preferences and customize their marketing to that. If you are using the internet, it’s unavoidable.

    I do have a GR account, but rarely go there. Review sites like GR are just one of the tools I use to help me find interesting books. AAR is another, as is The Book Smugglers, author interviews or book reviews on NPR and, of course, conversations with actual people.

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