Today was yet another sad day for book-lovers everywhere. It's official: Amazon has purchased the book-oriented social media site Goodreads. It was a quick and unexpected announcement; Goodreads has been operated privately since its launch seven years ago. I've used Goodreads for about three years now, but today I made the decision to permanently delete my account.
I loved the site for many reasons: I could share reviews of my favorite books, keep track of how many and what books I had read in any given year, and I could get recommendations from friends and other users on the site. It was preferable to other similar sites because you could add an unlimited number of books to your account for free. I had Goodreads connected to my Facebook account so people who were not on the site could view my recommendations. But all of that changed as soon as I found out Amazon was taking over.
For years, Amazon has been buying up every successful book-related site out there. Shelfari, Abe Books, Audible, The Book Depository, and BookFinder are all owned by Amazon. Amazon even holds 40% of LibraryThing through its ownership of Abe Books.
What's so wrong with Amazon owning so much? Besides the fact that it has been proven that monopoly is in general detrimental to the economy, Amazon has made it impossible to compete by selling physical books at a loss and e-books at such low prices. Bookstores across the country have been suffering because it is so hard to compete with such prices. The only way there are surviving is by delivering a unique experience with atmosphere and great recommendations.
Goodreads was a similar neutral online platform where readers could share any title and any opinion without worrying about censorship. Will Amazon now make Goodreads users verify their purchases? Will they stop posting reviews by authors? Will they start putting sponsored recommendations in your feed? Are search results going to be based on sales rank? Goodreads had the option of purchasing a book you found on the site from many different sources -- I'm guess now there will only be one option.
I'm not going to lie -- I'm afraid. Amazon has taken over major ways of buying, publishing, and now exploring books. I don't want a giant corporation telling me what to read. I love getting the random recommendation from a friend of a book they just loved reading and couldn't put down. Word of mouth is a powerful tool in the book world.
Part of what I loved so much about Goodreads was that you had your own little community where you could interact with individuals or on a larger scale with groups. Goodreads had been the indie bookstore of online sites. You could meet with your friends and talk about books unreservedly.
What will happen now that Amazon has control of the site? I can't predict the future, but I know it will change (and not for the better). And yes, I have been speaking of Goodreads in the past tense; there is no way the Goodreads as we have known it will ever be the same. I know it may sound paranoid -- "Big Brother is coming to get you" or something like that, but every time you open a book will you be doing it because you want to, or because Amazon just told you to? I have yet to find a site that can really replace it that is not owned by Amazon.
I can only hope that someone out there will create a platform that is easy to use, has a great community of readers, and is independent.
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