Amazon buys Goodreads. Will this devalue the site?

Yesterday, Goodreads announced it had been bought out by Amazon, a deal which goes into effect in the second quarter of this year. Many authors may remember the squabble last year when Amazon ended Goodreads’ practice of pulling data from the Amazon website to provide book information to Goodreads users; now, of course, it’s likely we’re going to see the exact opposite: only information from Amazon populating the Goodreads site.

What will this mean for indie authors, and publishers in general? In my opinion this move devalues the Goodreads site for three reasons:

1. Goodreads reviews are syndicated to sites such as Kobo, Google Play, Sony, and Powell’s, which means a review on Goodreads translates into a review on multiple sites. The Goodreads reviews also bump up your rating numbers on sites such as Kobo where users can rate your book but not review it; of the 22 ratings for Baby Jane on Kobo, 12 come from Goodreads and have helped keep my novel in the top 50 in its category. This practice of syndication will in all likelihood end once the current contracts with these competitor retailers expire.

2. Goodreads users can add books to their library from a variety of sources. Once the only option is Amazon, what happens to books that are not available on Amazon.com? They will effectively cease to exist on Goodreads, and sink even deeper into obscurity. This is of particular concern for writers of foreign-language books whose works may exist on Amazon’s foreign sites but not on the the U.S. site.

3. Goodreads’ Buy Now function links to multiple sources for your book, not just Amazon. This practice, too, will likely end. Readers looking to buy the ePub format will soon be out of luck.

It is no doubt for that last reason that Amazon bought the popular readers’ site: its millions of users will likely now be directed only to purchase from Amazon. This is yet one more way that Amazon is attempting to monopolize the indie book market, especially the ebook market. And a monopoly is not good news for anyone.

The failure of Shelfari, Amazon’s own answer to Goodreads, should have been an indication to Amazon that readers don’t like to be manipulated by a single retailer, want book information from a variety of sources, and want to make their purchases in a similar fashion. It will be interesting to see what effect a monopolistic approach has on Goodreads. Will its users abandon the site, just as they failed to embrace Shelfari?

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