Amazon Acquires Goodreads

by Adam on April 1, 2013

I’m a bit late covering the recent news of Amazon’s acquisition of GoodReads, but I feel like it’s something we’ll be talking about for days to come, so I don’t feel all that bad. For those of you who missed out, here is the news from a more official source:

What fun!

So Amazon buys one of the largest social reading communities online and two things happen:

  1. Many of the hardcore readers defect in droves, rebelling against the Amazon Overlord and exclaiming that if GR actually sells to Amazon, they’ll never use the site again (a fact that GoodReads doesn’t have any control over and Amazon couldn’t care less about).
  2. Amazon completes the lifecycle, with one well-placed acquisition, of the social influence of a considered purchase. Users on GoodReads now have an avenue to purchase the books they’ve added to their wishlist. Everyone rejoices.

Although that would be somewhat naive.

Truth be told, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the acquisition of GoodReads. I saw a recent talk at PubWest from the founder, Otis Chandler, and felt that there was potential there, though I’m not sure the site ever took off with anyone but the most diehard of readers. Which is actually completely fine and probably fairly commonplace when it comes to new reading communities.

And, I’m actually not that disappointed about an Amazon “win” (as it were) even though I’m deeply involved in the independent publishing world, and as a proxy to that, the ongoing fight against the ever-increasing influence of Amazon. In fact, I think this acquisition makes a helluva lot of sense.

Think about it. There are enormous possibilities if the GoodReads community could actually purchase all those books they were intent on reading. Amazon’s place as a retailer in the bookselling community is no more strengthened or weakened by their acquisition of GR, because all those folks that use the site are just as likely to buy off of Amazon regardless of who owns the social capital. So in my mind, I think the connection is pretty fundamental. In fact (and my God, I never thought I’d say this), kudos to whomever at Amazon came up with the idea of the acquisition in the first place. Why? Because the alternative would’ve been Amazon trying to build a far crappier and less competitive version of GoodReads that ultimately won out because of the fact that Amazon has a hold on the bookselling marketplace. At least, in this scenario, a good company got bought out for a fair valuation and somebody got something out of it.

Happy reading to all of you Amazon…err, GoodReads customers!

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