Amazon’s Acquisition of Goodreads: Execs and Users Weigh In

The popular book-centric social network will be part of Amazon's Internet empire

  • Share
  • Read Later
Digital Vision / Getty Images

When news broke yesterday that online retail juggernaut is acquiring Goodreads, fans of the popular book-centric social-networking site were understandably apprehensive. But Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler put a forward spin on the deal.

“I think the bulk of our users, which are readers and authors, are going to be incredibly excited about the opportunity that this is going to enable,” he told TIME shortly after the announcement. “For readers, Goodreads is going to get better. It’s going to get more exciting for readers who use Kindle. And for authors, as Goodreads grows, there’s going to be more and more opportunity to connect with readers, which is really the business Goodreads is in.”

What exactly will that opportunity mean for the network’s members? In the short term, not a whole lot. After all, Chandler says, Goodreads will remain an independently-run subsidiary of its larger parent company—much the way online shoe seller operates under Amazon—and he anticipates the site, which calls itself the Internet’s largest book-recommendation site, looking much the way it does now.

(MORE: Amazon to Buy Goodreads)

But of course, as we all know from seeing You’ve Got Mail (slightly different, yes, but you get the point), the purchase of a beloved indie book company by one of the biggest players in the field was bound to provoke responses that have not been purely positive.

On Twitter, users immediately began discussing deleting their Goodreads accounts amid fears of Amazon owning the information in their Goodreads profiles. Many commenters on Goodread’s own post about the announcement were similarly skeptical, many due to their own strong feelings about the state of the publishing industry and the fact that Goodreads would lose its identity as a neutral space for book lovers.

Legendary bookstore Politics & Prose even saw the move as an occasion for some dark humor about what might be next:

Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri headlined her take on the move “Goodreads? Amazon? Nooooo!” Wired‘s headline joked that Amazon would soon “own writing and reading” and Slate‘s said the move was part of the larger company’s “agenda of world conquest.”

(MOREBeyond Good and Awful: Literary Value in the Age of the Amazon Review)

Not every response was negative—and not just from competitors like LibraryThing. Goodreads users who aren’t concerned about questions like neutrality are very excited about a possible increase in convenience.

Which is exactly why, Otis Chandler says, Goodreads-plus-Amazon makes sense. Members, he says, have been asking for years for the site to offer integration with the Kindle, meaning that once a book is completed on the e-reader it is automatically marked “read” on the social network. Plus, Amazon’s resources and scale mean the site will be able to grow. Though he makes no promises, he’s optimistic about the user experience staying Goodreads-y – just bigger and better for readers and authors alike. “We’re not planning any changes at Goodreads other than the ones that we think are best for our members,” he says.

When asked about the sharing of user data across the platforms—a possibility that has some users excited and some worried—Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle Content, says the two will probably remain separate but linked. “I think what we’ll want to do is make it very easy to move from one to the other,” he says, comparing it to the way Goodreads users can already seamlessly send information to their Facebook profiles. That’s an answer that, depending on whether you’re excited or worried, will sound either full of possibility or scarily equivocal.

And though Grandinetti says that Amazon and Goodreads have been in conversations for a few years, he adds that the biggest changes for readers are probably ones that neither he nor Chandler can share at this point—because they don’t know what they’ll be. “I have a suspicion,” he says, “that the best ideas we may not even have thought of yet.”