Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amazon buys out Goodreads

For any writers out there out of the loop, it has been announced that Goodreads will "be joining the Amazon family," according to Otis Chandler, the Founder and CEO of Goodreads.

No, this will not be a rant against Amazon or Goodreads, nor will it necessarily be a rant of Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads. I'm not sure what to make of this yet, though I am somewhat skeptical. Still, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

Unfortunately for Goodreads, lots of people, writers and readers, do not seem overjoyed at this news. For examples of this, check out the multitudes of responses in the original announcement's Comments and a growing post over at the Kboards (formerly Kindleboards).

I've never been a huge fan of Goodreads, though I don't have a hate for it. To me it seemed yet another overly busy online social network that would suck up my time, time I would rather spend writing. And then there's the reputation of some of the reviewers over there. I can't personally comment upon Goodreads reviewers because I've not had interaction with them, but ... well, let's just say the reputation isn't great, at least not in all circles. I don't know if there's any truth to this reputation, but as the old cliche goes, where there's smoke, there's fire.

I will say that I have always appreciated that Goodreads was one of the independent places on the Web for readers and writers, a place without specific ties and business interests to any single company that is part of the publishing industry.

As for Amazon, my feelings toward the site and the company are what I think of as grounded. As a writer, Amazon has opened some doors for me, and yes, I make part of my living through Amazon. As a reader, Amazon has given me the Kindle and has made purchasing e-books and books quite easy.

But, I'm no fool. Just because Amazon has done good things for me, does not mean I'm going to roll over and become their puppy dog. Amazon has also done plenty of which I have not approved, though I generally keep such comments to myself (and will not go into detail here). I have personally spoken with Amazon representatives on occasion, and any complaints or concerns I have I always try to frame in a most businesslike fashion. Amazon is a corporation, after all, so I try to speak to its employees in a language they will not only comprehend, but will also give some credence. Screaming and yelling and cursing and voicing conspiracy theories will get one no where, except maybe labeled as a nutcase or a discontent or both. The thing to keep in mind is that what is good for me as a writer, and for other writers, isn't always the same as what might be good for Amazon, and Amazon is going to look after itself first, for which I cannot blame anyone.

I will say this: the other sites through which I publish my e-books give me far fewer headaches than Amazon. Yes, Smashwords still looks like it was put together in the 1990s, and though improved, its processes are still sometimes glitchy and slow, but my sales continue to grow there without any extra work from me. I can say the same for Pubit, and a few other minor e-book distributors. I put up my e-books, and slowly over time my sales continue to build. I can't say that about Amazon, where my sales are quite unpredictable, sometimes up high, sometimes plummeting. Some might suggest this is my own fault for not doing more promotions or for some other reason, but it's funny I don't have this situation with any other distributor. My own feeling about this is that Amazon is always tweaking its site and its algorithms, which causes upheaval with my sales, but I base my opinion from no known facts because it's not like Amazon is passing out information about its site and algorithms.

So, what to make of the Goodreads-Amazon news? I still don't know. I'll be waiting and watching. As I've mentioned, I'm skeptical. The one thing I could praise Goodreads about was its independence, and now that is gone. As someone who publishes through Amazon and who makes regular use of a Kindle, maybe this move will be a good move for me. Again, I don't know.

But ya know what? The indie publishing world has been kind of quiet of late. Maybe it's time for things to be shaken up some more.


Charles Gramlich said...

I put all my reviews on goodreads and use it to help organize my books as I read them. I do virtually none of the social networking there. In principle, I'd prefer they remain independent, but I don't feel very strongly about it.

Keith said...

For the last couple of days, I've been dodging various bugs that my family has been fighting, so I'm just now catching up on the news. I've got a Goodreads account. I doubt I've logged in more than 5 times, none in the past year. The reason is simply time. I've got too much on my plate without adding something else. I probably ought to be more active on it, though.

And Ty, I think your position on Amazon is well reasoned.