Friday, April 5, 2013

Amazon's Purchase of Goodreads: Opinions From Those in the Book Industry

by Cindy Gunnin

Authors, book lovers and business people are all complaining about Amazon's purchase of Goodreads. In fact, the only people who don't seem opposed to it are Amazon and the former owners of Goodreads.

Indie author Jennifer Malone Wright, author of Kinlde best seller The Vampire Hunter's Daughter and the follow up series Arcadia Falls, half joking, said "Pretty soon Amazon will own our souls."

But immediately turning serious Wright said, " I don't think this is a good thing at all. Amazon is the giant in the book world and seems to slowly be eliminating all of our other options for selling books."

Her words convey the same depth of concern as those from Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. He said, " Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built." His concern, and Wright's, is that by purchasing the independent reader site, Amazon now controls more of the flow of information about books.

For indie authors like Wright, Goodreads was an alternative to the cumbersome and restrictive review requirements that Amazon has adopted in recent months. Last year, thousands of reader reviews were removed from Amazon products because the writer of the review happened to be a published author as well. With no major publisher backing them, indie authors need the buzz of positive reviews to help generate sales on their books.

Amazon has claimed that its removal of reviews was prompted by some bad eggs, who paid for positive reviews, or gamed the system by having their friends, real and sometimes imaginary, write glowing reviews of their work. Unfortunately, authors argue, many readers are also writers and just because another person writes a book doesn't mean they are necessarily a competitor.

Others have expressed concern that Amazon will use/misuse the information available on Goodreads to further market books to authors. They have, in effect, given the giant bookseller a list of all their preferences, making marketing for Amazon a snap.

In the business world, many are concerned about the monopolistic control Amazon seems to be developing of books. The San Jose Mercury News cited worries from small book store owners that they are going to be even less able to compete with Amazon after the purchase of Goodreads.

"It's scary," said Ann Seaton, the manager of the independent bookseller Hicklebees, in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose told the Mercury News. "The stranglehold that any one player gets on a community is ultimately bad for everybody."

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