by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers
I normally don't argue with anyone online. One, I don't have time, and two, I want everyone to like me. But last night I spent an hour countering some authors who were freaking out about Amazon buying Goodreads.
If they had posted rational, thoughtful ideas about why it might be a bad idea for Amazon to own all three of the book-related (book review) social media sites, I might have even agreed with them. However, they were throwing around the word monopoly and trashing Amazon as evil, so I felt compelled to respond.
First, Goodreads isn't a retail store, so monopoly isn't an issue. Second, all those authors sell their books on Amazon, and I would bet they make a good chunk of their income from Amazon sales, even if they're traditionally published. If they really hate Amazon, they should pull their books down from the retailer and never sign with a publisher that does business with Amazon. Back up your beliefs with your actions and money!
More important, any of the big players in the publishing marketplace (Penguin, Books-a-Million, Ingram) could have bought Goodreads. But they didn't. And Goodreads could have said no. But they didn't. If you want to be mad, why not focus your anger on the founders who sold out?
Amazon is a successful business because it makes smart moves. It also wants to connect readers with the right books. Honestly, it's the most customer-centric business I've ever encountered. When I talk with the people at Amazon Publishing, they discuss everything in terms of "the customer experience" and how they want every customer to have a good experience. It's embedded in the company culture.
What do I think will happen to Goodreads? Amazon will improve the interface and make it considerably easier to use. They'll create a way to use the site from Kindle, which will make book cataloging and reviewing easier. They'll make author pages better so I can update my books to show the new covers. For inside scoop, here's an interview with people from both companies.
Will the B&N buy buttons eventually go away? Probably. But B&N is already circling the drain… because they waited way too long to get into the e-reader business and overinvested in expensive retail space. Maybe B&N should have bought Goodreads long ago and eliminated Amazon's buy buttons. I'm sure everyone in publishing would have cheered.
PS: And this morning, Shelf Awareness writes: "In one fell swoop, Amazon, whose algorithms for recommending books have shown limited effectiveness, now owns one of the major tools built to address the problem [of discoverability] it created."
I call bullshit. Amazon did not create the problem of authors failing to get discovered. There just weren't enough bookshelves to stock and display the growing number of authors. And yes, the growth of e-readers shrank print book sales and the number of bookstores. But don't blame Amazon for creating a product readers love! Further, Amazon, with its infinite "book display" space and supportive algorithms, has successfully corrected the problem of discoverability for most authors. As I said, keep the criticism real.