Friday, March 29, 2013

Amazon + Goodreads = ????

The world's largest bookseller, Amazon, just signed an agreement to buy Goodreads.

Goodreads:  Over 14 million book lovers.

Amazon:  Multibillions of dollars in book sales worldwide. (Not counting the Kindle devices)

This is a merging of the two most influential forces in the world of books.

I snagged this image from

Antitrust litigators, where are you when you're needed most?  This is a new kind of monopoly unlike anything ever seen before.  

But what will it mean?

Well lets look at Amazon's attempt to cater to bibliophiles with reviews and recommendations:  Shelfari.  Goodreads has been kicking Shelfari's ass all along.  Will we see a merging of Shelfari and Goodreads systems?  Maybe some linking back and forth?  Maybe a few widgets here there and everywhere?

And what of Amazon's position to control content sales via the Kindle tablet line?  How will they integrate Goodreads into the book-buying experience on Kindle tablets?

And what about the reviews, the lifeblood of popularity and discovery?  What of Amazon's reviews vs. Goodreads reviews/ratings?  Will Amazon forgo reviews for Goodreads plugin widgets or vice-versa, will Goodreads now feature Amazon reviews on each book page?

And what about discovery for us unknown Indie authors? In Addition to publishing with Amazon, many Indies use multiple retailers, blogs, social media, and Goodreads to find avenues of discovery.  Mark Coker of Smashwords nailed it:
“Brilliant move by Amazon ... Amazon just locked up discovery for the next couple years.”
And now, via Goodreads, Amazon is able to dip their fingers into other retailer's sales figures and affiliate commissions.  Goodreads has a thriving affiliate business, and massive tracking systems for affiliate links leading out to book retailers (Amazon and all its competitors).  Amazon can now track who's buying what books from what retailer through Goodreads.

A monopoly of information and book buying habits.

These are just a few of the questions/thoughts in my mind.  This is HUGE.  This is the biggest thing to happen in the world of publishing since ebooks.

Authors & publishers beware.

Here's just a few links to articles on the merger:

Leave some comments below.  I would love to hear thoughts and ideas on what this will mean for Indies and the world of publishing.


  1. I'm reserving judgment until I see what changes they elect to make. I'm quite nervous about it because Amazon has made so many changes. The creators of Goodreads say that Amazon is letting them remain independent and run things the same, but honestly, they may not know what they've gotten themselves into.

    1. These kinds of things don't happen overnight. Amazon will dip their fingers into Goodreads gradually. The ramifications of this are so far reaching, it boggles the mind.

      Just looking at all data at their fingertips through Goodreads, its phenomenal.

      For Amazon to say "We are going to let Goodreads remain independent", is like the US taking over a country and saying the same thing.

      Sure they will be independent, running under whatever guidelines and administration Amazon decides upon, just like Iraq, totally independent.


    2. valid point, but we can hope it remains the same or similar. What will bother me is if they start removing reviews on goodreads the way they do on amazon

  2. I just don't know. On one hand, this makes me nervous for all the reasons you stated, Travis. I, too, don't believe for a minute that Amazon won't slowly dip into Goodreads. Maybe never fully, but on some level it's bound to happen. What I hope is that whatever collaboration they engage in is to the overall benefit of authors and readers. Amazon has done a lot of great things for authors and readers - they've blown up the whole publishing industry. They've put a lot more power into author's and reader's hands alike. And now they're huge and stumbling their way through being an industry leader. Even if Bezos and senior management want to do this right, they're bound to make (perhaps enormous) missteps along the way - ones that can hurt us pretty badly. I guess it just remains to be seen where all the pieces will fall.

    1. Yes, its a scary proposition that one company with this much power over an author's discovery and livelihood could make a policy or algorithm shift that changes our entire lives overnight.

      I do think we will see some cool tools come out of this, some more connectivity between Amazon and Goodreads that makes it just a little easier to sell books. I am really hoping for that.

      I am hoping that Amazon treats this as an opportunity to boost sales, and not a way to manipulate the marketplace.

      Probably a very foolish hope.

  3. I suspect the biggest losers (at least initially) from this are likely to be the other internet retailers. One could envisage Goodreads becoming simply an Amazon portal or the manipulation of the Goodreads screens etc to make it "easier" to buy through Amazon - eg accessing/migrating the "Look Inside", buy with one click etc.
    Maybe the authors will get a respite while Amazon goes about killing off the already-weakened competition before it turns its attention back to us.
    Anyone want to be a tenant farmer? No? Anyone ...?

    1. I hear that one.

      There will be many losers in this game, and probably a few winners too, but I'm sure the winners will be authors/publishers putting lots of money in Amazon's pocket.

      In this uncertain shakeup of the publishing industry, Amazon has just made a very smart move.

      I can't see how this is not a glaring "Conflict of Interest", legally, civilly.

      To take the world's largest retailer and put in their hands the world's largest book recommendation engine is a glaring conflict of interest.

      I would not be surprised if there are some legal maneuvers against this merger. I would think it should spark and antitrust suit from the government. This just smells like a big fat rotten monopoly waiting to happen.

  4. Hey Trav, as a writer of erotic romance, I have additional alarm bells sounding in my brain. CONTENT CENSORSHIP. In the recent past, Amazon, unilaterally, enforced new definitions for unacceptable topics in erotica. They acted without notification, deleting authors' books from Amazon's website and more troubling, removing titles Amazon considered in violation of their new guidelines from reader's kindles and computers. One day you had your titles, the next day they had VANISHED. (Remember folks, if Amazon can deliver it to you wirelessly, they can ALSO TAKE IT AWAY.) There is extensive discussion on this topic on Amazon's forums so I won't go any further.

    While I don't write the sort of thing that triggers their guard dogs -- at the moment -- who is to say what unilateral changes will come in the future? The possibility for invasive abuse looms. Very scary stuff all the way around. Not only will Amazon have the ability to control the marketplace, they will have the ability to control WHAT IS WRITTEN.

    I'm sitting back watching with great unease.

    1. Yes it does creep me out big time. They have total control over what get published.

      Amazon changes things without notice or warning. And they have been pulling strong-arm tactics against author/publishers who complain. Basically we are all "lucky" to be "allowed" the "privilege" of publishing on their platform. We are forced to grin and bear it if we want our books sold on their sites.

      There's no foreseeable solution to the power Amazon holds over authors/publishers. A union wouldn't even matter, because they can simply refuse to publish any author in the union.

      Many people are starting to recognize the amount of power Amazon holds over their futures and they have diversified to sell on other retail platforms. But that is a very poor substitute for the Amazon bookselling powerhouse.

      As fast as we try to diversify, Amazon maneuvers to overtake the competitors. They are seemingly unstoppable. And none of us would have any kind of writing career without them.

      The way they are positioned in the market, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't make a play for Barnes and Noble by the end of this year.