Goodreads gone….bad March 30, 2013 – Tags: , , , ,

Now that Amazon has swallowed up Goodreads it’s safe to say most roads from the book social network universe now end in Seattle. With the exception of LibraryThing the rest are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the e-commerce giant.

The only road left not ending in the Emerald City goes through Portland, Maine. Though Amazon, through their acquisition of ABE books in 2008, owns a minority interest, there is still plenty of independent light emanating from Tim Spalding and the LibraryThing crew.

It was late in 2007 when I  first started covering the then emerging book social network field. Being a bookseller, living in Seattle and not being afraid of technology made for the right combination and motivation.

Below are the headlines from previous Book Patrol posts on the subject. Under each title is a selected quote (s) from the post.  If your looking for a short history of the genre I would encourage you to read them at your leisure.

At the time, “Apart from the principals, there [weren’t] many people thinking about the little “social cataloging” industry” commented Tim Spalding


New Years Eve 2007Goodreads Rising as the Year Ends in the Book Social Networking World

“Goodreads ended the year with an estimated $750,000 infusion via a group of angels consisting of “six influential Internet pioneers.”

“My friends keep joining Goodreads but my heart still lies with LibraryThing. Come on, peoples!” – Marc Hedlund at O’Reilly Radar

March, 2008The Book Social Networking Race : Shelfari, Goodreads and LibraryThing Accelerate

“As expected, the first quarter of ’08 has seen a whirlwind of activity from the Big 3 of the Book Social Network world. All have added new employees and all have added a host of new functionality to their websites. Here is a recap of some of the goings on:”

April, 2008Shelfari Changing Course

“One thing is clear; however, if Amazon decides to throw more of its weight behind Shelfari it will be hard to count them out.”

August, 2008AbeAzon. Amazon’s Acquisition of AbeBooks : The Day After

“How much did it cost? The folks over at TechVibes venture a guess that Amazon paid between $90-$120 million”

“For many booksellers AbeBooks has been a declining revenue stream while Amazon has been an increasing one. AbeBooks model is in many ways mature and their stellar growth years are behind them. For them to get Amazon to bite is a bit of a coup.”

August, 2008Shelfari Added to the Amazon Mix

“Amazon invested $1 million in Shelfari back in February of 2007 earning them a seat on the board and a front row seat for Shelfari’s now infamous and dubious astroturfing campaign.”

September, 2008Amazon Tightening Its Grip on the Book World

Otis Chandler, CEO of goodreads, chimed in on the new policy in a blog postNew “find at” links on book pages, back in early August. goodreads was forced to refine the way they link to e-commerce enabled sites that offered for sale the books discussed on goodreads. Now, instead of giving each bookstore or website equal exposure the goodreads user is provided this choice- Amazon or “More Options.” On the changes Chandler says, “Amazon has done a great job sparking innovation with it’s Product API and Affiliate Program. It’s sad to see that trend starting to be reversed.”

“So here we are, embarking on a new journey where the “monopoly on the production and distribution of knowledge, culture and opinion has been broken” yet companies like Amazon are tightening their hold on the distribution of information and the choices available to the consumer.”
“Do we really want to live in a world that has been reduced to ‘Amazon or More Options’?


For anyone who thinks this somehow improves things for the book set, please take your money and go home now.

Goodreads, like most of Amazon’s acquisitions, pledges to remain a Switzerland-like entity while in the grasp  of one of the most ferocious multi-national corporations of all time.

This is not about Goodreads members benefiting from Amazon’s technologies or Amazon benefiting from Goodreads’ social footprint.

To believe such nonsense is silly.

This has little to do with reading, socializing or books and everything to do with feeding a corporate beast. This is about acquiring a potential threat, for as I see it there are no real competitors left for Amazon.

Let’s also not forget that all three of these companies (ABE, Shelfari and Goodreads) were venture funded. Each probably had an exit strategy that included an acquisition by Amazon as the holy grail. Congratulations are in order to them for playing the game right but please don’t tell me how these newly-formed marriages improve anything. Like most marriages they end in divorce, with the person with the most money usually having its way.

The acquisition is simply the continued march of a company hell-bent on dominating in its areas of interest.

The game is not over, there are other models, healthier models, waiting to be developed. One that will not compete on price-point, that battle is over, Amazon won hands down but one that…

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