Over the last couple of years, I've been logging the books I've read and want to read on GoodReads. I've challenged myself to read more in the last couple of years by making and tracking reading goals. When I finish a book, I note the date I read it and sort it into rough categories. Sometimes, I write reviews; sometimes I just give the books star ratings. I also follow what friends, acquaintances and even like-minded strangers are reading and adding to their virtual read and to be read (TBR) piles. In all, I've added 229 books I've read and marked another 169 to read. I'm never without a list of potential books to pick up when I'm out and about because I have the GoodReads app on my phone, too.
Now, Amazon has announced they are buying GoodReads, and I have mixed feelings about this. I freely admit I do a fair amount of business with Amazon, and have for years. Even when I don't buy from them, I have been known to look at their product descriptions and browse the reviews of customers.
But I like the independence of the GoodReads community; though there are booksellers, publishers, and authors aplenty, I didn't feel like most of the reviews might be pimping a particular book or bookseller. In fact, the little buy bar at the bottom, which I never use, does offer some seller options. Now that Amazon is a player, I'm fairly certain that choice will disappear, and I'm not the only person to think so. In fact, Forbes even ran a column on how the acquisition will hurt competition.
I also wonder if my independent reviews will become marketing fodder, even more so than they probably are now. I know there are sites that link to GoodReads already. It's not that I have a problem with someone using my openly published review to make decisions; it's that I'm not sure I like that Amazon may start using those reviews as they see fit. Will they be able to excerpt my reviews? Even though Amazon says it will let GoodReads operate independently as it does with IMDB, I'm skeptical.
Beyond that, I'm not sure I like the vertical integration implications, a concern shared by other GoodReads users and the Authors Guild. Amazon has already moved into the publishing business by making direct deals with authors and offering self-publishing services; has had spats with traditional publishers over eBook pricing and print on demand; and is currently being sued by some independent stores over its DRM practices. Now, it's not just dabbling in the consumer review business; it owns the two major customer review sites, Shelfari and Goodreads. What am I to make of that?
So, I'm starting to investigate potential replacements for GoodReads. LibraryThing is a possibility, and they are sweetening the deal by offering free memberships. But it, too, is partially owned by Amazon through Amazon's acquisition of ABEbooks, which owned 40% of LibraryThing.
The truth is, I like GoodReads. I like the community. I like the functionality. I like the system. But I'm just not sure where this marriage with Amazon leads.