It was only a matter of time.
There, I said it.
As an author, I tend to gravitate from a visceral hatred of Amazon and what its buying power has done to the publishing industry over the past decade not to mention how its self-publishing arm has flooded the ebook market with metric tonnes of books that wouldn’t past muster with an agent in this galaxy thereby making it harder for published authors like myself to have their works noticed by the book buying public … to sheer wonder at how this corporate behemoth is the now world’s defacto book store. I’m sort of where author Chuck Wendig is on the whole thing:
I mean, you can’t be all, “FUCK AMAZON GRR,” then hop over to Amazon to buy ebooks, shoes, garden gnomes, sex lube, all with Prime shipping.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) March 28, 2013
Let’s be very clear – Amazon exists to make money. By purchasing Goodreads, they see a place where 16 million potential book buyers hang out to socialize about their favorite thing in the world – books. That’s 16 million people who might have access to 16 million credit cards – if they buy one book a month, just one … holy, crap, over. That’s enough revenue to pay off the national debt of Cyprus over and over and over again. Now, the reaction I’ve read online to the news since it was revealed to the world yesterday is mixed, I think, but I will offer this much: Amazon, whether you love or loathe them gets it. They have transformed the publishing industry in ways that have left most industry watchers breathless and traditional competition like Barnes & Noble choking on their dust. Amazon is planet Earth’s bookstore.
I repeat: Amazon is planet Earth’s bookstore. Period. End of story.
And in buying Goodreads, I believe Amazon is taking a fairly massive risk that if it works, will payoff in ways that Amazon shareholders can only dream of. That risk is this: Goodreads is for readers.
It’s not for authors.
It’s not for publishers.
It’s for readers.
It’s well established among bloggers and regular users of the site who’ve rightly jumped down the throats of authors with the peculiar habit of usng venue as a location for an epic public meltdown against bad reviews that Goodreads is for readers and readers only. And here’s the thing: reviewers don’t like their reviews being f#cked with. Like, ever. Herein lies the challenge for Amazon as it takes over the site – are they going to let it continue in its current incarnation or are they going to mess with the very simple formula that made Goodreads the massive success that it is already? My hunch is they probably won’t, but then again, Amazon has had some spectacular public relations cock-ups over the past few years, most recently the one where authors can’t review other authors books in a bid to clamp down on fake reviews and gaming the system. Who knows, really?
A lot of questions remain unanswered, though. Like, will Goodreads reviews become integrated with existing reviews on Amazon’s main site? Will new tools be developed that will allow authors to promote their books on Goodreads? Will the site itself become an eyesore of flash widgets advertising books? Will it cost more for publishers to advertise on the site? It’s early days still – who knows what this is going to look like twelve months from now. Who knows if Shelfari is going to wind up getting shut down and who knows whether an anti-Amazon backlash will form in the weeks and months ahead.
Will there be a new Goodreads emerging in the not-too-distant future – one that isn’t owned by Amazon and one that allows reviewers to enjoy social networking about books free of the all-seeing eye of Amazon?
Yes. I just can’t see how there won’t be. The reason for this is simple: I think people want an independent venue to do social networking about books. I’m not predicting an exodus of Goodreads users when and if this new site emerges, that will depend entirely on whether or not Amazon/Goodreads messes with people’s reviews.
So, there you have it. My two cents. Amazon continues to blow the traditional concept of publishing out of the water. They continue to define the future of books and traditional publishing looks more and more like a Norman Rockwell painting – something quaint and from a bygone era.
But by God, Amazon gets it. They totally get it.