The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

What do we get when Amazon eats Goodreads for breakfast?

amazonmainlogoIf there’s a sad irony to the growth of Amazon as the indie author’s magnificent friend over the much-maligned conglomerate publishers, it’s that all the happy writers have helped create a more pervasive conglomerate while most of them aren’t making any money for their books.

Businessweek speculates that Amazon’s breakfast tab came to $880 million or more. Their estimates consider several social networks and their values per user. LinkedIn is, they say, worth $95 per user, Facebook $58 per user, and Goodreads, with its 16 million users, $55 per user.

What did everyone get for the money?

  • “While the e-tail giant has continued to dominate its own market, many have complained that it doesn’t do a great job on the ‘social’ front — allowing friends see what friends are reading.” – San Francisco Chronicle
  • “The purchase of the niche social network is expected to help Amazon sell more physical and digital books.” – Los Angeles Times
  • “Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. ” – Scott Turow, The Authors Guild
  • “Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we’re looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.” – Otis Chandler, Goodreads co-founder

Independent Operations?

Goodreads says this acquisition will help it grow and better support its users who communicate their love of books, in part, through reviews. Nonetheless, many Goodreads users are concerned that Amazon will make Goodreads reviews as restrictive as Amazon reviews. Chandler says Goodreads will continue to operate independently and that’s what his support team is telling worried users.

“Amazon has a long history of buying independent brands and letting them flourish,” he said, pointing to Amazon’s purchases of brands including Zappos.com and Diapers.com. “We’re fully expecting that that’s going to be the situation here.”

Other than viewing Goodreads as a prospective competitor, Amazon—from Scott Turow’s perspective—couldn’t help but notice the volume of those reviews on Goodreads:

“One example should make it clear how formidable this combination is. For ‘Animals Make Us Human’ by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Amazon has 123 customer reviews, and B&N has about 40 (they report 150, but that figure includes ratings as well as reviews). Goodreads swamps these figures, with 469 reviews and 2,266 ratings for the book.”

In an article in Publishing Perspectives (“Amazon Acquires Goodreads, Twitter Shock Ensues”), Hannah Johnson notes that while Chandler has graciously shared his Goodreads publishing data with others, Amazon has kept its data to itself: “Following the acquisition, will Goodreads become subject to Amazon’s tight-lipped policy?”

Probable Goodreads Improvements

Presumably, Amazon will act quickly to improve Goodreads. Making e-books easier to add would bring kudos from users. What other goodies are on the users’ wish lists? Amazon probably knows. Fulfilling their dreams will quiet prospective dissent on Twitter and elsewhere and, if everyone is lucky their Goodreads experiences will convince them Amazon/Goodreads is a happy marriage with happy children.

If Amazon spends money making Goodreads better, most users probably won’t mind if the venture ends up funneling more buyers onto the Amazon site since almost everyone is already buying their books there already.

Perhaps the worriers on Twitter are just worriers, concerned about change in general. Perhaps Scott Turow needs to take a deep breath and see how Amazon/Goodreads looks as a positive or a negative factor for publishing and bookselling six months down the road.

Needless to say, if it looks bad then, he can say that in addition to everything else Amazon’s prospective $880 million breakfast tab did for everyone is:

  • Amazon, whose logo indicates they have/own/control everything from A to Z, has now got G in the stable.
  • Otis  Chandler got rich.
  • Book buyers got bought like cattle on the hoof, or perhaps, sheep.

Malcolm

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