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Monday, 8 April 2013

Amazon/Goodreads: The response

The recent news that Amazon have acquired the social networking site Goodreads has met with a lot of ambivalence - typical responses have been that Amazon is a giant who wants to swallow up the entire book industry.  Publishers were stung when Amazon came out with the Kindle, and many felt that the big publishers should have combined forces long ago to develop an eReader device before the Kindle came to dominate the market. However the simple truth is that Amazon continue to innovate while a great section of traditional publishing remain in the dark ages - why, for instance, didn't one of the big publishers buy Goodreads? 

It's no good moaning after the fact.

When Goodreads announced that they were joining the Amazon family one user Tweeted:  Ha. Ha. Good one. Like Poland `joined’ The Third Reich.” reported the Amazon buyout thus: In just five years Goodreads has grown into the largest outlet for armchair reviewers and readers to share their opinions, as well as a safe space for author-reader interactions. Most members saw Goodreads as an unbiased haven for books, a place where they could profess their bookish love free from the ugly noise of commerce. And the noise has certainly been ugly the past few years, with the closing of Borders and many independent bookstores, the consolidation of the corporate publishers, the eBook pricing wars. In the background of all this ugliness has been the rise of Amazon and their unabashedly thuggish way of doing business.

Though all this is missing the point that Amazon's customer experience is second to none, and that company have their finger on the pulse - Amazon's own review system has provided an outlet for armchair reviews and now that they own Goodreads they have inherited a thriving community of book lovers. That community will prove incredibly valuable to Amazon who are now starting to make an impact with their own publishing imprints.

I've long believed that social networking is going to become increasingly important to the book world, and I strongly believe that it is going to become even more important over the coming years. Traditional book critics are now surplus to requirements - readers with large followings on social networking sites can influence more people with their opinions about books, films and music than even the best placed critics.

Goodreads have been incredibly successful at creating a social reading experience. And, I think, that it is for this reason that Amazon have snapped up Goodreads. Many fear Goodreads will now be run down  by Amazon but I feel things will turn out differently. I believe Goodreads will improve under Amazon's guiding hand - it's got to be in Amazon's best interests to make Goodreads, which is already a pretty good website, into the best place on the web for book lovers. That Goodreads is already essential means that Amazon can't really lose.

So once again it is no good moaning - As I've said the big publishers should have bought Goodreads. 

The facts are that traditional publishing have failed to see yet another opportunity to challenge Amazon. That Amazon saw this opportunity is the most telling fact of all. 

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