A disturbance in the Force : personal reactions to the Amazon purchase of Goodreads

A few days behind the curve, I found out today that Amazon.com has purchased Goodreads.

I am conflicted, and really the only thing comforting me is quite how many other people are also rather upset at this development.

From the official blog post announcement:
Today I'm really happy to announce a new milestone for Goodreads: We are joining the Amazon family. 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. We also both love to invent products and services that touch millions of people.

I'm excited about this for three reasons:

1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.
2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.
3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture.  
I'm a tad bit annoyed right off the bat about how a utterly fantastic open book resource is being brought to the world of dedicated e-readers for Kindles only.  Because walled gardens are such a fantastic thing to be excited about (and dear lord, the existing app for tablets/smartphones could use some work, the forum support is terrible).  I also strongly feel that for sites/services such as Goodreads/LibraryThing/etc, a buy out should not be the pre-requisite for collaboration with a bookseller, which seems to be the big thing about this purchase.

Goodreads and Amazon have not always gotten along.  I think I heard something about this in passing on Friday, and was really puzzled because of their history.  Then I finally got to reading my work email from Friday and found out, nope, it was not a joke and Amazon is purchasing Goodreads.

I haven't decided if I'm going to leave Goodreads or not just yet, but I am leaning towards exporting everything to my LibraryThing account and deletion of my Goodreads account.  I just want to be deliberate about it, and not change over simply as a knee-jerk reaction.  It's not going to be convenient at first, I enjoy the community of Goodreads and the book clubs discussions.  But for me it is boiling down to an ethical issue, and I guess that's the thing about ethics, as much as we want them to be, they just are not always convenient.  When it comes down to it, my membership to a site like Goodreads may not have large implications, but it does matter to me, and from the comments on the purchase announcement, it matters to MANY other Goodreads users, some of whom have already deleted their accounts.

In the past few years I have almost completely stopped using Amazon, and if a vendor ONLY has an online store through Amazon if I get it at all I've probably let six months to a year go by before caving.  I can use Kindles just fine, and Kindle Fires (even if I don't see the point of buing one).  I'm even pretty good at figuring out what's wrong with them and how to fix it with a little forum searching.  Without going into the full explanation right now (which I can go on about for quite some length, just ask me about it at a party some time), I have ethical and personal issues with Amazon based on their treatment of customers, their lack of respect for privacy, and for generally not playing well with others.

The problem with avoiding Amazon, even for simple searches, is they are all over the place and have some pretty good tools.  They own IMDB, and I will admit it is a strong resource that I utilize regularly.  I used Goodreads often in a professional context, for work on displays, collection development, and helping patrons, and I used Goodreads because it was a rich, relatively neutral, resource with a fantastic user base contributing to the knowledge about books.  Not only that, but if you were interested in purchasing books, it supported searching a range of stores.  Somehow I don't thing we'll be seeing links to buy it at Barnes & Noble much longer, among other stores.

So right now I'm giving it some time to stew.  I've exported my data to LibraryThing for now, not sure if this is my final step or if I'll explore some of the other options, and I'm not updating any of my reading progress on Goodreads while I ponder.  There is honestly a good chance that Amazon will not change anything significant about the site (besides harvesting data).  My issues are also beyond the fact that they'd be harvesting my data, though that is included.  Maybe part of me has never forgiven Amazon from starting out as this amazing and revolutionary company to developing into a bit of a dick.  If that's the case, maybe its because they keep doing things to renew my frustration and irritation.  I don't know, we'll see how things settle out in my head over the next few days.  Hell, I don't even know what to use as a tag for this entry yet.

Some additional reading:
The Simple Reason why Goodreads is so Valuable to Amazon (The Atlantic)
Amazon Buys Goodreads. Take That, Bookish!  (Forbes)
Three Hidden Benefits of the Amazon Acquisition of Goodreads (Forbes)
Amazon's Plan to Own Writing and Reading Advances with Goodreads Buy (Wired)
Comments and discussion of the purchase by the founder of LibraryThing
LibraryThing to offer free membership (unlimited library beyond 200 books) for a year due to flood of incoming new members. I was able to import some four or five hundred titles to my library from Goodreads with no issue, but additional books will require a membership.  I will likely be paying for a lifetime membership shortly even if I branch out to other book sites.
Escaping Amazon Google+ group
Alternatives to Goodreads spreadsheet (41 at the time of linking)
11 Alternatives to Goodreads


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