Saturday, March 30, 2013


by Julie H. Ferguson

Like many authors who have relied on creating buzz from reviews on Goodreads, I was alarmed with the news that Amazon had bought the mega-social site for book lovers. Why? What does it mean? What are the implications?

Amazon's quest for control has always worried me—the company seems to gobble up the lesser, but threatening, companies, and they disappear into a black hole. Indie bookstores, Borders, small publishers, and now the commentators are saying, Barnes and Noble. Indie authors have hated how the cost of shipping their books to Amazon to fulfil their sales means they lose their profit if they don't use CreateSpace. But despite all this, indie authors have swallowed the bitter pill and listed their titles on Amazon because they must be seen in the online catalogue that is the biggest in the world.

I have long enjoyed Goodreads because of its independence. I list my titles there, engage in the social side of the site and forums with readers and other authors, and review most of the books I read there. I pray that I can continue to do this without interference.

So why has the merger occurred? My reading on the issue would indicate that the venture capital investors in Goodreads were ready to reap their rewards. As no big publisher or consortium was interested, and they should have been, GR was ready to sell. Amazon was happy to buy and remove a possible threat that might have expanded into a competing online e-bookseller, selling books for platforms other than Kindles. Also GR has 16 million reviewers whom Amazon wants for their recommendation database, according to The Authors Guild in the US.

The implications? GR says it will continue as before. Amazon vows to let it be. But for how long?

I certainly can't predict what will happen next, but worry that the GR reviews will be chopped, deleted, and some never to be seen again. And, if all the reviews stay, who will bother to read them if they don't trust what Amazon posts. As Scott Turow wrote today,"As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information."

Hmm! Unsettling to say the least ....

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