Friday, March 29, 2013

Amazon Marries Goodreads: What does it Mean?

I'm usually not real savvy about figuring out what things like yesterday's Amazon acquisition of book review site Goodreads means--at least until somebody draws me a picture.  But after a day or so of watching the boards and reading blogs and getting the sense of the Twitter zeitgeist, a few things have become clear.

One consensus emerging is that Amazon will *probably* not mess with GR too much; this has been their M.O. in the past in the M & A space, and doing so will run counter to the spin that's been coming out of Amazon and GR in the past 24-plus hours, such as "It’s incredibly important to us that Goodreads remain a platform for all kinds of readers to use, whether they’re reading paper or on their Nook or Kindle or whatever." (GR CEO Otis Chandler)

Authors and readers on the Kindle Boards seem split about the union.  One powerful voice that falls squarely in the "this is a good thing for books" camp is ground-breaking best-selling Indie-turned-traditionally-published WOOL author Hugh Howey, who blogged on his site : "I can think of a dozen ways this acquisition might make my life better as both a reader and an author. Right now, I spend a lot of time on both sites in both capacities. My guess is that we won’t see many changes at all. I’m betting that the real acquisition here is all the data behind the scenes. The algorithms that tell me what to buy (and almost always nail it) are going to get better. The social networks that feed my reading habit are going to get stronger. The people who helped make Goodreads awesome are going to get richer. And the people at Amazon, who I have gotten to know this past year and who to a man and woman love the fuck out of some books, are going to keep trying to get the right ones in the hands of readers."

What this seems to be about is discovery.  Goodreads and Amazon were the top two web presences for both review and discovery, and now they've moved into the same house; the synergy should be powerful.

And another theme emerging is that this is another brilliant body-shot-to-the-gut at Barnes and Noble. Digital Book World passed on this assessment from a publishing consultant named Thad McIlroy this morning:  “Out of all the commenting about books, Goodreads was the most powerful ecosystem for recommending what you read next and Amazon was a close second. Now it’s just Amazon . . . [w]ith the collapse of the Nook [B&N's] lost the online game and we just have to count out the final steps.”

Big gorillas make people uneasy; rightly so.  But authors that have inside knowledge and long experience with Jeff Bezos and Amazon seem comfortable and assured that, yes, it's just business, and business is cold-hearted sometimes, but in the end the culture at Amazon is strongly pro-reader, pro-book, and pro-author, and unless you collect your paycheck from BN, the pluses will likely far outweigh the minuses.

Time will tell.  Film at 11.  All that good stuff.

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