The Amazon Monolith

This morning, I got an e-mail from Goodreads announcing their sale to Amazon. By the time (moments later) I reached the Goodreads blog, there were already a thousand comments. People have a lot to say, but for the most part, they’re divided. So am I.

I found Goodreads through fellow writer Fran Wilde. I tested it out, and found it had a lot of things I’d been looking for as a reader, and a few things I hadn’t known I was looking for as a writer. Since then, I’ve been steadfastly posting reviews, adding books I plan to read, etc. I also post the reviews on Amazon – something I’d only done rarely in the past.

I buy most of my books from Amazon. I sell most of my books on Amazon. I link a lot of my reading to Goodreads. So, good news all around, right? Maybe.

I buy on Amazon because they have great service, good prices, and good reliability. Sure, I wish that Amazon would shift to the ePUB format, but I understand why they don’t.

I sell books on Amazon because … well, that’s where the buyers are. They’re there for the same reason I am (as a reader). It would be nice to have a more diverse bibliosphere, but having one major market does make my life easier in many ways. About half the time I keep my book on Kindle Select (and thus not on other markets) because of the benefits it offers. The rest of the time, I’m off it, because I don’t want to encourage a monopoly, however currently benevolent.

That’s the fear with Goodreads. At present, Goodreads is independent, impartial, etc. Will that change with Amazon ownership? Will Kindle sales be promoted over other ebookstores? I assume so. Why wouldn’t Amazon do that? And in fact the blog post announcing the change is all about Kindle, down to the awkwardly posed photo of the founders holding Kindles with Goodreads stickers plastered on them.
Lots of commenters on the blog are worried about privacy. That doesn’t trouble me much. Goodreads is already a social site; what I post there is not exactly private. But the question of continued impartiality troubles me, as does the continued growth of the Amazon monolith.

We’ll see what the future holds for Goodreads. I’m not quitting, but I am checking out alternatives. I thought of LibraryThing, but it’s apparently also part owned by Amazon. I’m sure there are dozens of others, and it may not be long before one of them emerges as the new independent reading site of choice. It’ll be interesting to find out.

Or maybe someone else will start something up. Who has deep pockets, likes books, loves data? But these days people trust Google even less than Amazon, so maybe that wouldn’t work after all.

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