The basics have been well reported within minutes of Amazon’s announcement on Thursday after the close the of market. In what is widely recognized as a very smart move by the retailer, they have an agreement to acquire Goodreads for an undisclosed sum. Goodreads was backed by venture capitalist True Ventures, so it was going to be sold to someone. Started seven years ago, the social network for books had been interviewing experienced publishing executives in recent months as part of an exploration of selling books directly from the site to their 16 million members. Goodreads and its staff of about 40 expects to remain in San Francisco and the deal is set to close in the second quarter of 2013 subject to various closing conditions.
In a statement vp, Kindle content Russ Grandinetti “Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books and, with Kindle, Amazon has helped expand reading around the world. In addition, both Amazon and Goodreads have helped thousands of authors reach a wider audience and make a better living at their craft. Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike.” Indeed, Amazon gets the opportunity to integrate their reading platform and bookstore more closely with at least a portion of the Goodreads community, and also acquires access to another significant source of reader data.
What Happens Next
The Goodreads blog makes it clear what some of the pathways to “delight” readers are likely to include:
“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.”
As eBookFriendly first posted, Amazon has quickly gone from the last purchase option list in the Goodreads’ drop-down to the first one listed.Goodreads had stopped using the Amazon book data API just over a year ago as their stated terms became “more and more restrictive,” licensing data from Ingram and supplementing it.
Now Goodreads co-founder Otis Chandler writes, “For all of you Kindle readers, there’s obviously an extra bonus in this announcement. You’ve asked us for a long time to be able to integrate your Kindle and Goodreads experiences. Making that option a reality is one of our top priorities,” Chandler said.
Also telling is that Chandler’s post about the acquisition to Goodreads members doesn’t ask for open comments on the deal; rather, it asks: “Please let us know – what integration with Kindle would you love to see the most?”
One likely possibility that Chandler described to the LA Times is to let Goodreads users add a Kindle ebook file to their Goodreads Shelf. Indeed, that’s one of the integrations that many Goodreads members mention in their comments. Users also asked to cross-post reviews to both Goodreads and Amazon; to integrate Goodreads with Amazon wishlists; to share to Goodreads from within Kindle ebooks.
Separately, Chandler tells paidContent, “I think, short-term, the thing we’re most excited about is actually bringing the book into Goodreads and enabling people to just start reading right there from the Kindle Cloud Reader. We’ve never had a good book preview feature.”
At the same time, many Goodreads members posted disappointment that Goodreads was forsaking its independence, and concern that feature changes might weaken their attachment to the site. Some users asked that any Amazon and Kindle integration be optional rather than automatic. Many wondered if Amazon’s policy on acceptable reviews would be carried over to Goodreads, and others asked if they would still own their Goodreads reviews.
More Likely Changes from the Outside
Goodreads had emerged as a significant independent influencer of book discovery and purchases, and publishers had increased their support of the site through pre-publication giveaways, ads and other programs. For some houses that support may change.
Goodreads’ reviews api is also widely used, as an alternative non-commercial source. Those reviews are currently featured on the ebookstores of Kobo, Sony and Google, as well as sites like USA Today (and they are integrated on our own Bookateria title pages). Chandler tells paidContent “we’re not going to shut off” the feed to Kobo, but you can logically expect a number of the core api users to start looking for other solutions. (A self plug: we have significant databases of professional book reviews and years of archived bestseller lists available for license.)
Amazon already owns another online book community, Shelfari, and they have a minority stake in Library Thing, acquired when they bought AbeBooks. Many online posters dismiss Shelfari’s value as a vibrant community, though Grandinetti tells paidContent, “We’ve used [Shelfari] to generate quite a bit of incremental data about books. It’s powered features we’ve launched over time, such as book extras and X-Ray. But, of course, Goodreads has been much more of a social connection site and a larger social network. So when it comes to the graph we’ll use to connect people on Kindle, Goodreads will power that.”
But Bowker is another minority owner of Library Thing, and founder Tim Spalding remains the controlling owner. His blog contains some interesting thoughts. For starters, he writes: “People keep reporting that Amazon has 40 percent [of LT]. That’s simply not true—it fails to take account of our second funder, Bowker.” He also vows, “As I’ve said before, I don’t want to sell. LibraryThing wasn’t set up as a startup that would get flipped. And our business—split between .com and the library side—always made us easier to partner with than buy.”
Spalding believes the Amazon Goodreads purchase is good for Library Thing: “we gained a lot of friends today.” Among his thoughts: “We need to make common cause with the publishers and booksellers the Amz/Goodreads move leaves out in the cold. I’m hoping some come to us.” He suggests they might in turn support independent booksellers by “releas[ing] our data to indies for free.” At the same time, it’s clear that for LT to fill the void and rise to the occasion, somehow they need to access significantly more resources: “We have limited but real development resources, and a TON of work to do. LibraryThing has a very large codebase and feature set for a company with only a few developers.”
Goodreads does let users export their data, and other reader communities include anobii and weRead. Separately, the recently-launched Bookish and Random House’s BookScout Facebook app are trying to establish themselves as sources of reading recommendations.