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Friday News: Amazon Buys Goodreads

At the beginning of 2012, I predicted that Amazon would buy Goodreads.

My boldest prediction is that Amazon will purchase Goodreads for the community and its recommendation engine.

Yes, I knew that they owned Shelfari but Shelfari is the MySpace of book aggregation sites. It just made a ton of sense that Amazon would want the most vibrant and fastest growing community of readers for its own. Yet 2012 came and went without the news of such acquisition but in 2013, I remained confident that Goodreads was a great take over target. But given the Random House and Penguin merger, I thought maybe the two of them would buy it.

Alas, maybe they should have bought it but they didn’t. Yesterday afternoon, Amazon announced that it was acquiring Goodreads. What’s going to change? Goodreads claims not much. In an interview with Laura Hazard Owens, Goodreads claims that its first motto will be to do no harm.

And if you’ve ever shopped at Zappos or ABE Books or or Book Depository, you’ll probably agree. Those are all companies acquired by Amazon who remained robustly their own companies.

But what is likely to change is a baked in connection between Kindle and Goodreads. Here are some ways I predict will happen. When you buy a book on Amazon, it will add it to your Goodreads shelf. When you start that book in your Kindle, it will mark “date started” on your Goodreads account. You’ll be able to share your highlights and notes through Goodreads updates. When you end a book, it will note that as well and you will be able to type up a quick review and give it a star rating.

This feature will be one you can turn off like popular highlights.

On the Goodreads side, expect to see the “Buy Now” button prominently displayed. It makes sense for Goodreads to facilitate a buy directly from Goodreads. Amazon should keep the other buy links available, albeit in a smaller more obscure place. The reason is that few people will even use those links and the appearance of being a fair player will be a way for Amazon to fend off its critics. Goodreads is also likely to incorporate excerpts direct from its site.

The one thing that Amazon may be worried about is brand erosion but given that you’ll have to open your Kindle app to read a book bought at Goodreads is likely enough to remind you who your mommy/daddy is. Hugh Howey calls it a marriage, but let’s be real. This is an adoption. There is one power player here, not two.

I’m not at all shocked or perturbed by this but that’s probably because I thought it was a long time in coming. Goodreads

I wonder about the liability aspect. If a customer is delivering a package, how will Walmart keep track of whether the package is actually delivered. If a customer has a dispute, is it taken to Walmart or the delivery service? What about privacy issues?

This isn’t a new idea, rather, it is an extension of a new company called Zipments. Zipments uses “crowd sourced” delivery services. Zipments has run into problems in certain areas which require a courier’s license or other liability insurance.

I’ll stick with UPS, Fedex or the USPS for now. Reuters

“Quite a few retailers have signed up to participate, including both national chains like Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle, and Toys“R”Us, as well as local SF stores like Blue Bottle Coffee, Palo Alto Toy & Sport, and Nob Hill Foods.

All the ordering and payment is handled via a Google website, saving the users the effort of navigating numerous partner websites. Delivery is handled by a courier service, not Google.”The Digital Reader

We should asked him about the Mayan Apocalypse. The Millions

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Liz H.
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 05:04:37

    I’m not surprised by the Amazon buy of Goodreads, but I doubt that little is going to change, a la Zappos. The biggest difference is that Amazon has an definite interest in promoting the purchase of certain books over others, unlike on Zappos, where I don’t think there’s any difference in Amazon’s earnings depending on what you buy. The NYTimes article quotes the director of Kindle content, “For example, it will make it “super easy,” he said, for authors that self-publish through Kindle “to promote their books on Goodreads.” ”

    Also, not that Amazon lacks for consumer purchasing and behvior information, but I think that the value of that info that they will be obtaining from GoodReads has been dramatically understated. Think of the online credit card and airline shopping portals- those give away points and miles worth millions of $s every year in exchage for recording your purchasing behavior. They must be making significantly more than that back in order to make it worth it. And Amazon has now obtained argueably the largest source of such consumer data about book purchasers (other than Amazon’s own records). Far more important, I think, than the GoodReads community (especially because Amazon owns two other similar communities, and has put little/none of their considerable power into developing them).

  2. Estara Swanberg
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 05:46:59

    I loved that the headline says Amazon buys Google ^^ – if I hadn’t seen the correct G in your little graphic image I would have been even more worried, heh.

    I’ve backed up my reviews – although I don’t rightly know how to deal with a .csv file in a way that makes sense, admittedly – and will have a look at further developments with suspicion.

    I don’t use my Amazon ID or data or name or e-mail at Goodreads. I’m not planning on changing that and if they suddenly can connect me, I’d probably stop using the site.

  3. Ros
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 05:50:17

    Currently, the Kobo site lists GR reviews of books. I would think these will now start to appear on Amazon. I am not a huge fan of that because I think there is a difference between product reviews and book reviews.

  4. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 06:00:28

    I wonder what happens if I pick up a delivery at Walmart and then get in an accident. Walmart might cover the loss of the item meant to be delivered, but what about my truck? I suspect Geico would make a case that delivering packages for a financial reward equals commercial use and I’d be out one Chevy.

  5. library addict
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 06:43:15

    @Shannon Stacey: That was my first thought.

    Also, what kind of background checks/screening process is Walmart going to have? If they are delivering groceries or whatever and the customer/delivery person decides to rob the person getting the delivery will they be liable? (You can tell I am a trusting soul :p) Or, turning that around, if the person getting the delivery gets mad they were given only 4 oranges and not 6 and decides to attack the messenger? I just don’t see how they think this is a good idea.

    I’m not on Goodreads. But I do shop at Amazon and I think them being a publisher as well as seller and now review owner doesn’t bode well. They can claim they aren’t biased, but why wouldn’t they recommend the Kindle Select titles and/or the Montlake ones more often than other similar titles? Or keep more 4 and 5 star reviews for their products and have the 1 and 2 star ones conveniently not show up?

  6. carmen webster buxton
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 06:44:37

    Congrats on the Goodreads prediction! I wonder what will happen to that tiny number of books that Goodreads had for sale? Goodreads offers authors who own the rights to their books a chance to upload them for sale, but I don’t think very many authors did that. One of my books is for sale there (although, ironically, it’s free almost everywhere else), so I guess I will find out.

    [So the Google thing is sort of a Good Friday joke and not a typo?]

  7. Loosheesh
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 06:58:11

    @Estara Swanberg: “I don’t use my Amazon ID or data or name or e-mail at Goodreads. I’m not planning on changing that and if they suddenly can connect me, I’d probably stop using the site.” – Same here. For stores I use my real details; for social sites, I use a handle. I want absolutely no connection between the two and I’ll bail if I’m forced into it.

    The Walmart delivery thing sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

  8. Jane
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 07:08:10

    @carmen webster buxton: Oh no the Google thing was my punishment for being so puffed up at being right.

  9. Ros
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 07:24:46

    @Jane: I thought it was your new prediction.

  10. library addict
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 07:32:10

    @Jane: Ha. I thought you were making a joke.

  11. Dabney
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 07:50:22

    I’m wondering if it will make it easier to keep track of books on the Kindle Paperwhite. Currently, there isn’t any easy way to make book lists outside of that Kindle and import them into the Kindle. It will be nice if the shelves on Goodreads became collections on the Paperwhite.

  12. Beth
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 07:52:02

    It would be really amazing if amazon could make the reviews from people you follow on goodreads show up first on Amazon instead of their top reviews .

    My book buying process for the last year and a half is find book on amazon, ignore amazon reviews, pull book up on goodreads and see what the people I stalk think then either go back to amazon and buy the book or move on. I like the idea of the purchase button on amazon but I would prefer to buy on the site. I always read the sample first and I like the suggestions amazon makes although I check those on goodreads too….so it would be nice if they streamlined the whole process

    I drank the Amazon kool aid a long time ago so I don’t see what the fuss is about.

  13. Turophile
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 08:40:18

    Thanks for the buzzfeed link you included in yesterday’s news, but I can’t believe you didn’t include a link to the Turkish Oil Wrestling on buzzfeed. Seriously everyone go to buzzfeed and look for Turkish Oil Wrestling. Just don’t do it from your work computer.

  14. Meoskop
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:39:48

    Stand On Zanzibar! Holy flashback! I had forgotten President Obomi. Back in the way back days I was a huge fan of Brunner, Dick and the like. Much of the dystopian view they held toward our future has come to pass, including Dick’s inescapable targeted ads.

  15. Deb Nam-Krane
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 10:52:05

    Aw, Jane- I hope you found a good sling! :-) The concern for me is whether GoodReads reviews are going to port over to Amazon.

  16. Carrie G
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 12:44:40

    I’m naive enough not to be overly concerned about the Goodreads/Amazon link. A similar connection hasn’t interfered in any way with my enjoyment of Of course, I really don’t have anything to worry about because the Kindle account is in my husband’s name and email!

  17. P. Kirby
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 12:46:34

    I’m not all that thrilled about the possibility of my Goodreads reviews showing up automatically on Amazon. In the few instances (like, two) that I’ve reviewed a book on Amazon, I’ve had to retool it to a more general audience. My Goodreads reviews are written primarily for an audience of one — me — with personal anecdotes and liberal injections of expletives.

  18. Lege Artis
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 13:28:44

    Mu biggest concern is censorship… I loved social aspect of Goodreads and I fear this is going to change, because they control and restrict reviews. I understand monopoly of reading products, but I don’t want monopoly over my thoughts. Also, how will this reflect to various goodreads group and their content? For example, I’m part of their MM romance group and they had free serial stories written by mm authors for members of group.

  19. Little Red
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 16:09:19

    WaPo’s ComPost blog by Alexandra Petri just got a new entry this afternoon about this.

  20. missreadthis
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 09:35:17

    Will this encourage censorship of reviews? Does anyone know?

  21. A Year in Review (Examining my 2013 Publishing Predictions)
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 04:02:08

    […] House & Penguin.  (FALSE but kind of TRUE). I had predicted that Goodreads would be bought by Amazon in 2012 but it didn’t happen but I still saw Goodreads as a prime acquisition target and sure enough […]

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