From the always-helpful David Gaughran:
The doom-mongers have been running wild on Twitter with the news that Amazon is to acquire Goodreads. Much of that nonsense is typical (hysterical) Amazon bashing, or reflexive defense of the status quo.
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There are some more reasonable fears about what this purchase entails. I would like to deal with these in turn, then discuss how I think this acquisition will be beneficial to writers – particularly self-publishers.
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1. Amazon will change Goodreads from being an independent home for readers to discuss the books they love
I can understand this fear – particularly if you are a Goodreads user, and spend a lot of time in the site. It’s not unreasonable to be worried about what happens next with a site that you love. I also understand the feeling of ownership that (rightly) develops in a community like Goodreads – especially one that has literally built the site into what it is today.
No-one has a crystal ball here, but all the indications are that Goodreads will retain its independence. That point was stressed in a blog post from Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler.
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If you are more worried about Amazon’s intentions, here’s Amazon VP Russ Grandinetti in a revealing interview with PaidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen:
Our mentality here is to first do no harm, and make sure that if we’re going to do integrations, users genuinely find it to be a big benefit.
Again, you might say talk is cheap, that actions speak louder than words. Well, let’s look at Amazon’s actions.
Amazon purchased a 40% stake in LibraryThing seven years ago. It bought Shelfari outright five years ago. It bought IMDB.com fifteen years ago. The independence and brand of those communities has not been compromised in all that time.
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4. Goodreads will become a site exclusively for Kindle owners
The statements above are quite clear that this isn’t going to happen, and that Goodreads will remain a home for anyone who loves books – however they read them.
It’s also clear that Amazon and Goodreads will be working together to provide extra features for Kindle users. Owners of other devices may gripe about that, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. This purchase has enabled the new features not prevented them for other devices. Amazon can hardly be expected to provide the technical know-how on how to integrate features onto EPUB devices they haven’t designed or manufactured.
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How does this acquisition help self-publishers?
I see three primary benefits:
1. More advertising opportunities on Goodreads, and a better return on investment. Goodreads already has an advertising program, but it’s hardly the best ROI in the business. Amazon has the experience and know-how to improve the program – and self-publishers are always looking for more (effective) places to advertise their books.
2. Amazon’s recommendation algorithms will be vastly improved with all the data that Goodreads has been collecting. Anything that makes Amazon a more trusted source for book recommendations levels the playing field for self-publishers – the vast majority of whom make 90% (or more) of their sales at Amazon, despite the Kindle only having around 60% of the market.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital