Movement in the Book World: Amazon buys Goodreads & alternatives

I woke up this morning to find Twitter ablaze (actually, more than likely just my bookish corner of Twitter) with the news that Amazon has acquired Goodreads. To those not in the know, Goodreads is a popular book review website with a lot of community chatter. I also rely on it to give fairly accurate, non-biased ratings to books I’m thinking about reading. I also post reviews to there, discuss with other bookish friends, look for recommendations, enter giveaways, read reviews, vote in the Goodreads awards…the list goes on.

Now that Amazon has bought the business, I’m really not sure what to think. I don’t mind Amazon, although as an Australian who doesn’t own a Kindle; it doesn’t play a role in my life. I’ll occasionally browse, and in the old days before The Book Depository, I used to buy some hard to find books there. The Book Depository brings me to another point – it was also acquired by Amazon. Since then, I have found their customer service to still be second to none, but prices have gone up and I know now not to believe entirely in the ‘usually shipped in 24 hours’ phrase – it’s usually around 72 hours. However, this is based on my recent experience. I have had books arrive in less than a week, and I can’t complain about free shipping! Is this something we blame on Amazon? Or it is just a hugely successful business growing with the times?

The Goodreads acquisition worries me that it will become a Kindle focused, book buying site. I have tried to love a Kindle, but I still prefer my Sony Reader (which I bought three years ago and has become as essential as my car keys). The Kindle…I don’t like being locked in to Amazon and US currency (good at the moment but does anyone remember when $1AUD = $0.71USD or worse?) One petty thing I don’t like is the percentage read rather than page numbers (I’m not sure whether you can change that). So increased links between the Kindle and Goodreads are as useless to me.

I’m also worried about the reviews we write – do they become the property of Amazon? Will they be used in Amazon’s marketplace to promote books?

Kobo recently started using Goodreads’ rating data to tell potential buyers how well a book was received. Seeing that Kobo is a competitor in the eBook/eReader department, will this be pulled?

Would this cause you to change social book sites? Will you still use Goodreads?

There are several other book sites where you can post reviews, discuss books, have online book clubs etc. Here are a few that I’m part of, and others I’ve found out about:

  • The Reading Room
    I’m liking The Reading Room more and more. There’s no limit to how many books you can have, you can review and discuss books, find likeminded readers, have a book club and enter giveaways for new books. You can also preview new books (very helpful if you’re undecided). TRR also has a regularly updated news section and items for discussion. It links to book reviews from The Guardian newspaper. It is independently owned.
  • Library Thing
    Unlike Goodreads, you can only have 200 books as a free account. What I like about this site is the clean home page, the tags for each book, how alike your tastes are to other users and the top wish lists/currently reading lists. You can see from below that don’t always read popular books that are worthy of a cover image though! The SantaThing Secret Santa for books is always fun.
  • Bookish – I don’t use this currently, but it claims to help you find the ‘best reads’. There’s new releases, bestsellers, articles about books, an online shop (only in the US) and recommendations. I tried the recommendations feature, but it didn’t recognise The Rosie Project (my review coming soon), which was originally published in Australia. It is owned by Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA) and Simon & Schuster I believe.

Are there any other social book sites you would recommend? Do you use them?


13 thoughts on “Movement in the Book World: Amazon buys Goodreads & alternatives

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  1. I’m still digesting this news. As a goodreads librarian I got an email from them earlier today with the announcement. I suppose It depends on whether Amazon lets goodreads run as a separate business or if they try to assimilate them. Goodreads is my primary place to catalog books and I like it the way it is now but it will probably change.

    I also use LibraryThing but I’m not crazy about their interface and then there’s that 200 book limit. Plus, Amazon owns 40% of LibraryThing through ABE Books and they also own Shelfari (which I don’t use). I tried to have more than one book site and after a while it became too much work.

  2. I am going to adopt a wait and see approach I think. If A does start making big changes I might decide to leave but we’ll see.

    I have only just started messing around on The Reading Room and mostly like it. I think I need to connect with more people etc before I am totally sold on it!

  3. I am crushed 😦
    Goodreads was literally my favorite website. I just learned that Amazon owns AbeBooks, Shelfari, and 40% of Library Thing, Sad, sad day in book world.

  4. My first thought was to go back to LibraryThing which I’ve used since 2005 but on discovering Amazon own a great chunk of that too I’m flummoxed! Will wait and see, in the meantime reviews will only be going on my blog, not on GR or LT

  5. I will wait and see. I use Goodreads mainly for organizing my books and I don’t see how this will change. I don’t own a Kindle but never went through any GR links to buy any books anyway and I don’t rely a lot on reviews there.
    I never liked the Library Thing’s interface.

  6. My primary bookish site is Shelfari which was taken over by Amazon a few years back. It hasn’t influenced my use of the site much. Goodreads I only use to write reviews of review books as a favor to publishers and authors.

    I generally hate it when bigger companies absorb smaller ones as it’s usually not advantageous for the smaller one. We’ll see.

  7. I like the look of The Reading Room but I’m sticking with goodreads for now in the hope that amazon will only change things for the better (e.g. some kindle integration might be good). If I don’t like what’s going on though I have no reservations about switching.

  8. I found your post today when searching for an explanation as to why today I received an email from the Book Depository offering me 20% off a book I put on my Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf a couple of days ago. It seemed a bit too much of a coincidence. I hadn’t realised til I read your post that Book Depository is also owned by Amazon. So they are obviously linking their databases and marketing accordingly.

    1. That’s really interesting Vireya – I’m tempted to try it, just to get a discount on some of my wishlist! It’s clever marketing, but at what cost? I tend to see a lot of the books I’ve searched for come up as ads for an Aussie bookstore – I’m not sure if I like it or not (especially as I always use Booko if I plan to buy online).

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