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My thoughts on Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads

March 29, 2013

My initial reaction when I heard the news yesterday that Amazon was in the process of buying Goodreads was, to be honest, disappointment. The fact is that I don’t trust Amazon, and not just because I currently work for the competition. Being a writer who wants to make money (soon) from writing, I tend to believe that the absence of a competitive marketplace will make that more difficult for me. And if it wasn’t obvious before that a non-competitive marketplace is Amazon’s ultimate goal, it should be now.

Goodreads has evolved into a place where millions of readers could come together to talk about, review, and perhaps most importantly discover books. It’s that discovery piece that Amazon wanted to get it’s hands on because until now, any book you discovered on Goodreads you would then have to go and buy at your own discretion – with no prodding in one direction by the site itself. Amazon was a choice, but so was Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, or Apple, or Google, or your local independant. And all that choice was great for readers and writers, but not so great for Amazon.

Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, sums it up better than I could:

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.

It will, of course, remain to be seen what direction Amazon will take with Goodreads. It’s likely that it will be similar to what they’ve done with IMDB. And if that is the case, I suspect that I’ll remain a Goodreads member. IMDB is still a useful website, even if the stamp of Amazon can be seen on it. With luck, Goodreads will remain so also – albeit less useful to non Kindle users like myself. And it will then have to remain up to readers to remember that the choice is still theirs when it comes time to open their wallets for that new book by the unknown author that they just found.

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