Friday, March 29, 2013

Amazon Buys GoodReads, and Other News

 I, for one, welcome our Book Overlords (especially since they're based in Seattle).
From Shelf Awareness:
Amazon is buying the popular book-focused social networking site
Goodreads, which was founded in 2007 and now
has more than 16 million members. The acquisition is expected to close
by July. Goodreads' headquarters will remain in San Francisco, and its
management is expected to stay in place.

As the leading social networking site devoted to books, GoodReads has
been considered an important element in addressing the "discoverability"
problem that grew with spread of e-books and Amazon and the collapse of
Borders: How would readers discover books if fewer of them were visiting
the best source for learning about new books, bricks-and-mortar

In one fell swoop, Amazon, whose algorithms for recommending books have
shown limited effectiveness, now owns one of the major tools built to
address the problem it created.

On the Goodreads blog,
CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler said the site "will continue to be the
wonderful community that we all cherish. We plan to continue offering
you everything that you love about the site--the ability to track what
you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book
lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors--and your
reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it's incredibly
important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no
matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even
stone tablets."

But judging from the reaction of booksellers, publishers and some
Goodreads users, the process may not be so easy. The overwhelming
feeling expressed yesterday on Twitter and Facebook was surprise and
disappointment. @NextGenAuthors tweeted us: "Hey, your April Fool's edition doesn't come out until Monday!" Many
indies and their fans promptly cancelled their accounts.

The question is how a site that was prized for its independence and
noncommercial cred will fare as a part of the Amazon empire. As one
person commented on Otis Chandler's own blog on Goodreads: "I
liked/would prefer a community of readers not backed by someone with
motives to a) unrelentingly mine my data and b) sell me stuff."

In response to Chandler's comment that "We truly could not think of a
more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and
an appreciation for the authors who write them," Jarek Steele of Left
Bank Books,
St. Louis, Mo., wrote on his blog: "Really, Goodreads? You've forsaken
all the other opportunities to partner with independent bookstores,
Kobo, even Barnes & Noble & the Nook? How about iPad? Also, who at
Amazon has a love of books or authors?"

The Amazon record concerning book world companies it's purchased isn't
encouraging. While some non-book purchases, like Zappos, have remained
independent and fared well, some book purchases are either merged into
Amazon World or left to die on the Internet vine, such as Lexcycle and,
most tellingly, Shelfari, which, like Goodreads, is a social media site
focused on books.

Only last year, Amazon and Goodreads had a public fight that led to
Goodreads choosing to use Ingram data instead of Amazon's because of
Amazon's requirement that its data not link to another retailer. There
was no word on how this might change.

Goodreads has also been marked by a kind of openness that runs contrary
to Amazon's penchant for secret. Otis Chandler has spoken at many
conferences, giving details about site usage, and Goodreads shares
information with publishers. It's likely all that will change very soon.

The move also adds to the sense that Amazon is slowly buying up much of
the book world. Over some 15 years, the company has bought,, Brilliance Audio, the Book Depository, Shelfari,, Lexcycle, BookSurge, CreateSpace, and
(through AbeBooks) 40% of Library Thing.

Wired summed up this feeling well, beginning its story on the Amazon purchase of Goodreads with this: "Amazon looked back
to its roots in bookselling and forward to its future as the global
overlord of all reading and writing by announcing its plan today to
purchase social reading site Goodreads."

Forbes called the move a slap in the face of publishers,
writing that it's no coincidence that the deal came seven weeks after
Penguin, Hachette and Simon & Schuster launched Bookish.

"It's a brilliant move by Amazon,"
Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Co. told the Wall Street Journal. "If
you are a book marketer, the two places you think about the most in
terms of online marketing opportunities are Amazon and Goodreads." He
added, "It makes me question whether Amazon's competitors are awake. How
could they let this happen?" 

And in his inimitable style, Knopf's Paul Bogaards tweeted,
"That's what all you morons get for sharing your books online."


Editor's Note: Judging from our e-mail over the last 12 hours, many in
the industry believe that the main reason Amazon bought Goodreads is to
bolster its discoverability problem. Although we don't usually "shelf
promote," please indulge us a moment. Two years ago, the Shelf launched
its consumer publication, Shelf Awareness for Readers, a free
twice-weekly customized newsletter that helps indies help their
customers discover the best 25 books published that week and that drives
them back to their local store for purchase. We now have 50 partnership
stores, with 200,000 subscribers; we've helped those stores to sell more
and more books and helped them reinforce customers' faith that their
local indie is the best place for learning what to read next. To find
out more information about our program, go to
I'm curently reading "Leaving Everything Most Loved" by Jacqueline Winspear, the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, and I am loving it, of course! Here's some things the author posted to Facebook that I felt I had to share:

Hello Everyone! As you know (how could you fail to, with the posts appearing on this page) my new novel featuring Maisie Dobbs was published yesterday. I began my book tour on Monday, however, I am very aware that not everyone can make a point of going to one of the venues where I will be speaking. Technology to the rescue! At the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, my "interview" with Barbara Peters, owner of the store, is available to view at the following URL:

I took great care not to reveal any great spoilers about the new book, though I should warn those of you who have only just begun reading the series, that during the questions segment, members of the audience referred to events in previous books (and I made the odd slip too!).

In addition, I was interviewed for the blog A Writer of History, and it appears online this week - I thought the writers among you might be interested:

And finally, for San Francisco Bay Area readers - one event that does not appear on the Appearances page of my website is the radio show, West Coast Live this coming Saturday. West Coast Live is recorded with a studio audience in the Ferry Building down in SF - ticket details are on the website:

I think that will be all from me for a while - book touring is busy work, so not always easy to check in from the road. So, until the next time, I wish you all the very best, as always.
If you are like me, and you're one of the millions obsessed with Downton Abbey, a wonderful British tv series, you are probably grinding your teeth awaiting Season 4. In order to take the edge off the anxiety of waiting, PBS has come up with a nifty little period drama that should help to slake the thirst of Downton Abbey fans for at least a few months.
Wondering if "the love affairs of a store's clerks and wealthy patrons
enthrall viewers as much as the downstairs-upstairs goings-on at the
Grantham estate," USA Today noted that Mr. Selfridge, which premieres Sunday on PBS Masterpiece, is, like Downton Abbey, "a lavish costume drama set in early 20th-century England," though this
story focuses on "the rags-to-riches story of Harry Gordon Selfridge,
the charismatic, American entrepreneur who in 1909 threw open the doors
to Selfridge's, welcoming London and the world to the first truly modern
department store."

The show, starring Jeremy Piven (Entourage) and adapted by Andrew Davies
(Pride and Prejudice), is based on the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr.
Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead, which is available in a series tie-in
paperback edition (Random House, $16, 9780812985047).

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