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March 29th, 2013 / 2:44 pm
Behind the Scenes & Technology

Speculations about Goodreads & Amazon (instead of eating lunch)

I was going to go get Subway for lunch today, but then I started thinking about what was more important: eating or social media? I decided eating, but then I remembered that I used to be a social media consultant, so whatever, here’s some thoughts on this Goodreads/Amazon thing that a lot of people (thirty-five, maybe) are really worked up about:

  1. Amazon isn’t Google, which does a really fantastic job of buying the cutest startups at the pound and then leaving said startups on the side of the road after they get old and ugly and start pissing on the carpet. Jeff Bezos invests and improves his acquisitions–just look at how Audible integrated with Kindle so that users can switch back and forth between listening and reading. Nothing is going to happen overnight, but expect some serious changes in your Goodreads user experience.
  2. Mashable ran the headlineAmazon Buys Goodreads to Make Reading Experience More Social.” This sounds utterly terrifying, because the last thing I want to do when I’m reading is socialize. But I guess it also sounds gorgeous, because it might create some dystopian world where we  see status updates like “Fat Jim checked into His Bathtub, Bitch! (with Georges Bataille and A Diet Coke).” 
  3. All jokes aside, I’m actually trying to be excited about Kindle Integration: if my purchases are automatically added to my GR shelf, if my reading progress is automatically updated on my profile (important to me because I usually read 3-4 books at a time), and if there’s a “Friends are Currently Reading” feature, I could see myself using Goodreads more often and more dynamically. In theory.
  4. Another obvious thing: Amazon would not make this purchase if they didn’t think they could somehow monetize the “social” aspect of Goodreads. The concept of “organic” social marketing in a ruse, but Twitter has done a pretty decent job of 1) putting relevant content in front of the right users; and 2) making it easy for users to ignore/hide/flame the content they aren’t interested in. This is just a guess, but I doubt Amazon is going to be thoughtful in this regard: if they do experiment with social ads, I fully expect them to be as awful as Facebook’s promoted posts.
  5. I read a article on Forbes that claimed this move cements Amazon as the “No. 1 recommendation game in town,” but are we really using Goodreads to discover new books? The people I’m friends with on there use it as a catalog, not as a resource for recommendations. Richard Thomas kicks ass, but it seems to me that the majority of people writing book reviews on Goodreads are the same schmucks that write soda reviews on Amazon, except on Goodreads those schmucks will sometimes argue about Chuck Klosterman like they’re in a freshman comp class. Maybe new features will change this, but I doubt it.
  6. Again, LOL at most Goodreads reviews. I cannot stress this enough.
  7. But really, all of the above romanticizing about social is just nonsense, because anyone who thinks this isn’t about eBooks is kidding themselves. I had no idea why this acquisition even happened, and then I read that Goodreads was thinking about getting into the selling game. Amazon sniffed a competitor (DATA! DATA!) and then it drank its blood.
  8. I can’t figure out what any of these means for indie publishers, but this whole thing makes Goodreads feel a lot less bootstrappy and a lot more corporate. This is all hypothetical (and based on what Adam said about “Big Ticket Items”), but if Goodreads made it easier for authors/publishers to sell their eBooks (and promise them a wider profit margin), there was an off chance that it could have turned into the Pitchfork of Indie Lit. Or something. OK, probably not. But still.

So yeah, do you care? Tell me if you care.

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