Good news and bad news from Amazon buying Goodreads

Amazon & Goodreads: making the Kindle more social

Amazon buys the popular social book reading website Goodreads. Is that good or bad news for Goodreads?

Possible good news

  1. Book exchange system through Goodreads.
    From Kevin Eagan: “I could see Amazon’s used ebook store platform (now just a credible rumor) integrated with the Goodreads platform. Goodreads already gives away ebooks on their site, so this is possible.”
  2. The Kindle becomes more social.
    Can you imagine reading a book on your kindle and seeing marginalia from other Goodreads users? That would be a dream come true!
  3. Better status updates on Goodreads. 
    Imagine making a note on your Kindle, and having it appear automatically on Goodreads! Or when close the kindle app or device, your Goodreads profile automatically updates the location of your book. Right now, you have to update your location manually. Why not have the Kindle do it for you?
  4. Sync your owned book list between Goodreads and Amazon.
    When you buy a book on Amazon, it would automatically appear on your Goodreads list. Handy!
  5. Sync your Amazon wish list onto Goodreads.
    I love my Amazon wish list. I currently don’t have any of my wish list items on Goodreads, but it would be neat to share my wish list with friends on Goodreads. 
  6. A more clear distinction on Goodreads for the to-read list.
    Is the “to-read” tag on Goodreads used for books you own that you still need to read? Or is “to-read” for books you don’t own, but would like to buy? It’s confusing. I’d like to see a clear distinction of tags. Suggestion: Owned and read, owned and to-read, read from a loan (does not own), wish list (does not own).
  7. One consistent book reviewing platform.
    Why leave the same review in two places?

Possible bad news

  1. Forced to log into Goodreads using Amazon login.
    Some might see this as a good thing. I see it as a bad thing, because when Yahoo acquired flickr, they focused all their time and energy into moving flickr onto Yahoo’s platform and convincing users to use their Yahoo login. All that time took Yahoo away from innovating on flickr.
  2. One recommendation engine.
    Having two separate recommendation engines from Amazon and Goodreads is nice. I hope they don’t merge it together and just put Amazon’s recommended on Goodreads.
  3. Innovation on Goodreads could be ignored.
    Will new features be implemented? Often when a big company takes over, they ignore innovation for integration. Every good site needs a facelift, new design features. New functionality. When you are part of a corporate giant, nimble changes get caught in red tape. As the gizomodo article “How Yahoo killed Flickr” says, “Integration is the enemy of innovation.”
  4. Community on Goodreads could go down.
    With this acquisition  Goodreads is longer a grassroots site. Now it’s part of a corporate giant. Do people really want to have a community on a corporate giant website? Facebook users will say yes, Google Plus readers will say no.
  5. Goodreads will become another promotional vehicle for Amazon to sell books.
  6. No more links to other book stores.
    The complete selection of links to other book retailers under “online stores” could go away, in favor of just an Amazon link.
  7. Bad terms and conditions.
    When Facebook acquired Instagram, they released a new awful set of terms and conditions. They backtracked and said they’ll make the terms better, but then Facebook went ahead and made the terms even worse for Instagram. Yet people continue to stupidly use the service, giving forever usage rights to Facebook to use their photos for anything.
  8. Amazon could kill Goodreads in the long term, because it doesn’t make enough money.
    NBC bought hyper-local news site, People were excited. Three years later,  NBC killed the site, because “Everyblock didn’t fit within the NBC portfolio of news products” and didn’t make enough money. At least NBC paid “only” several million dollars for Everyblock. In 2007 Google paid $100 million for Feedburner. You thought $100 million dollars would ensure Feedburner would stay around? Nope. Five years later Google is slowly shutting down Feedburner.
  9. Amazon could kill Goodreads in the short term, because it’s a competitor.
    I believe this is the real reason why NBC killed Everyblock. Amazon has a competitor service, Shelfari. While it seems unlikely that Amazon would kill Goodreads so people will flock to Shelfari, just look at NBC killing Everyblock. Everyblock was an upstart. It was challening how news was collected and distributed. Everyblock was all about social. Everyblock made sense. NBC was afraid, bought it, and then killed it. We all love Goodreads for how social it is. We all know how Amazon is not social. Amazon is afraid. They could kill off Goodreads in a few years.
  10. Amazon could move everyone over from Goodreads onto Shelfari.
    This seems unlikely.
  11. Amazon could kill Goodreads because it doesn’t have enough users.
    Google recently killed the immensely popular Google Reader service, because it had “only one million users.” UPDATE: When I originally wrote this post, I thought Goodreads had six million users. But they have 16 million. Ok, point 11 is pretty much null now, right? I hope.

Do you have more possible good news or bad news to add this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

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11 thoughts on “Good news and bad news from Amazon buying Goodreads”

  1. Pingback: Amazon and Goodreads partnership | Matt Maldre

  2. Excellent summary. My thoughts:

    Strongly agree on points 4 and 5: I really like the idea of syncing my lists between the two. I currently keep my wish lists of what I don’t own but would like to buy on Amazon, and my list of what I own and am planning to read, as well as what I’ve read, on Goodreads. Having them all in one place would be so handy.

    I have several friends who make great recommendations and It would be really nice to be able to add them to my wishlist or even my shopping cart with one click, rather than having to switch sites, search for them in Amazon, and add them to my wishlist there.

    Having said that, I agree with you that I would like the recommendation engines to stay separate. My recommendations on Amazon are so whacked from my buying gifts for people that they’re basically useless. I value my friends’ recs much more.

    You and I differ on the topic of marginalia: it’s just a distraction for me. I’ve inadvertently turned that feature on before and always turn it off.

    Mainly I fear Amazon’s ability to swallow up everything in the publishing world–it’s taking out all of the bricks and mortar bookstores; it’s going after the publishers. There is good in small, independent entities in the publishing world, whether that’s the great indie bookstore or the small niche publishers (I won’t defend the Big Six here, though they do good things, too), and I fear for their existence in the face of Amazon’s rapid growth and domination of the industry.

    1. Yeah, publishing domination should be at the top of the list of bad news.

      With all this syncing talk of various things in Goodreads and Amazon, it seems so complicated to pull off, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a long time to happen, or never happens. Hopefully Amazon is able to focus on syncing one feature between the two services, and do it very well. Anything more would be welcome too, but I hope Amazon can continually improve both of their services.

      Also thanks for giving me that link with the correct 16 million member count for Goodreads.
      This post is now updated to reflect that number.

      I also like how that article puts a price value on each user of various services:
      Linkedin: $95 per user
      Facebook: $58 per user
      Pinterest: $50 per user
      Twitter: $50 per user
      Instagram: $29 per user (when bought by Facebook with 35 million users)

  3. Matt said: “Can you imagine reading a book on your kindle and seeing marginalia from other Goodreads users? That would be a dream come true!”

    That would be the best-case option for me. I would love to see what other words, sentences and paragraphs people mark up and highlight.

    1. Marco, you can _kinda_ see people’s notes and highlights now on Although, it’s a really clumsy interface where you can only see the most recent posts and only if someone tweeted or facebooked the note. Really strange that Amazon forces you to tweet or facebook your note in order for someone to read it on the website.

      Check out the shared notes and highlights for the book “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer”

      Plus, being able to only see these notes on rips the notes out of their context, so it makes them like a plastic bottle floating out in the ocean. (originally I typed piece of poop floating out in the ocean, but that might not be a good metaphor, because it implies my notes are crap. Which they might be…)

  4. Thanks for the insight. I hadn’t thought about the flickr/Yahoo example, but tor analysis is true. I don’t want them to focus on integrating the service if it affects the viability of goodreads as a platform. I want to see the social network thrive AND get the additional services of the amazon ecosystem.

    1. Thanks! It always seems so peculiar when a large company acquires a service. There’s gotta be a book that gives analysis about the history of such acquisitions. And not so much one company acquiring another company (like Tribune buying the LA Times Mirror), but when Facebook buys Instagram, Yahoo buying Flickr. I love reading the inside scoop with Yahoo/Flickr. And the inside scoop with Google and Google Reader (even though Google Reader was developed natively in-house). But all the politics involved in how a product either succeeds or is prevented from succeeding.

  5. Thanks to Amanda Gant’s comments on her Google Plus post, I found out that Google might be killing Feedburner. I added the following to point #8 under the bad news:
    At least NBC paid “only” several million dollars for Everyblock. In 2007 Google paid $100 million for Feedburner. You thought $100 million dollars would ensure Feedburner would stay around? Nope. Five years later Google is slowly shutting down Feedburner.

  6. Pingback: Goodreads signups double for two years straight | Matt Maldre

  7. Pingback: For creators, searchers, readers, and curators | Matt Maldre


  • For creators, searchers, readers, and curators | Matt Maldre
  • Goodreads signups double for two years straight | Matt Maldre
  • Amazon and Goodreads partnership | Matt Maldre

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