I’m nothing if not one to get on a bandwagon…I mean come on, a wagon, a band, sounds like a party. So this is me jumping on the Goodreads/Amazon commentary bandwagon.
I’m just going to assume that you know that Amazon has purchased Goodreads apparently for a TON of money. I wandered the interwebs a bit this weekend to see what readers, publishing people and journalists in general were saying about the acquisition.
The business people are all aflutter because it is, obviously, a brilliant business move by both Amazon and Goodreads. There is massive potential for Amazon in data mining and providing even easier access to their website for purchases directly from Goodreads. Goodreads gets a MASSIVE amount of money they can roll around in naked and then hire a bunch more people to run Goodreads (because the original folks will be too busy rolling naked in the money). So yeah it’s a good business move.
A number of independent and Amazon published writers think this is a wonderful acquisition. They see this as two of the greatest book related websites integrating to give the customer the very best experience both in book community and book purchasing. Hugh Howey author of Wool and one of Amazon’s massive independent publishing successes wrote a very positive blog post about the whole thing…check it out here. He’s absolutely right that publishing is changing and that Amazon is putting the squeeze on the middle level players in the industry.
I’ve read a few live forum discussions where people were split in their take on what this will mean for the public. Some are excited about the idea that they might be able to post a review on one site and it would show up on both sites. A few people like the idea that they could update reading progress automatically and post favorite quotes right from their Kindle. Others are concerned that Goodreads will stop being community oriented and become sales oriented which often gets in the way of community. There is also A LOT of concern about data mining. People have said they have deleted their Goodreads account simply in the hope that their reading data will not end up in Amazons hands.
The traditional publishing folks including a good majority of writers who have traditional publishing deals think it’s a dreadful turn of events. I can see their point of view. Amazon is quite predatory when it comes to the publishing industry and that affects their writers. Goodreads has become quite a powerhouse in the world of “word of mouth” publicity for all writers. While I personally think it’s a bit too much like the shark tank at feeding time when fans get up in arms about something…anything really…that doesn’t change the fact that it’s become a great way to connect with like-minded readers to discover new writers and books. This is a good thing for all writers and all publishers. But now Amazon, who is technically both a seller of books and a publisher of books will also control (and don’t think for a second they will NOT control this commodity they paid a HUGE sum of money for) how those like-minded readers find each other and how you find reviews and who you can easily interact with on their website.
Maybe that’s cynical but as everyone always says it IS a business and making money is the point. Now when I take a quick look into the history of business what I see is that we’ve had to implement a whole host of laws to protect the public from monopolies. Because when you corner the market and you manage to kill off all your competition the public suffers. I do not think Amazon is altruistic regarding books or anything else. They are a business and their goal is to make money. I do not begrudge them this goal I simply know that if they are allowed to destroy all the competition everyone will suffer except Amazon.
Right now I keep thinking of Thomas Edison and the early days of the film industry. His trust managed to create a monopoly that held the rights to use the film, the cameras and the projectors hostage so that only members of the trust could access those necessary items to make a film. Amazon doesn’t have that kind of hold right now but I get itchy when too many of the eggs are all in one basket.
If all Amazon did was sell books (among other things) I might not be quite so bothered by all of this but they aren’t just edging out the middlemen so we have a publishing model with no middleman, they are taking the place of that middleman, all the middlemen as a matter of fact, the publishing ones and the selling ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Amazon just fine. They do a GREAT job of selling shit and getting it to me in a manner that I love. I love the Kindle and the instant gratification of getting an ebook in seconds. But I’m going to go on record here as saying I don’t think Amazon having more control of the book industry is a good thing for anyone. I think in the end the writers, publishers, book sellers and book buyers that want an alternative to Amazon will have to do something similar to what the film industry had to do back in the early 1900’s. They are going to have to move outside of Amazon’s reach. Ultimately I think that will involve some pretty big leaps of imagination and faith. I hope someone gets on that fast.