Amazon buys Goodreads

Amazon buys Goodreads

Honestly, it was a bit of a surprise when I got this

Amazon press release

in my e-mail!

I doubt anyone has been talking more about the idea of Amazon getting more social than I have (although it’s possible), but I didn’t really expect them to buy

After all, Amazon already bought a readers’ social site:

back in 2008 (in the first year of the Kindle, which was released late in 2007).

Shelfari never had the cache that Goodreads does, though, so this is a big deal.

In fact, if this was a major industry, there might be a lot of scrutiny about the “merger”. Yes, there are others out there:


for one, and earlier this year, I suggested Amazon buy the BookAnd app.

Goodreads reportedly has more than 16 million members…when you think about the total number of “serious readers” in the USA, that’s a really sizable chunk (it wouldn’t surprise me if it is half of the people who buy, oh, more than 100 books a year).

Goodreads wrote about this in a

Goodreads blog post

and there are a couple of interesting things there. One, this means Goodreads is hiring, and two, they want to know what integration you want between your Kindle and Goodreads.

Now, I want to point out that this may not mean a lot of changes at Goodreads (outside of that integration thing). was the best movie reference site on the web (in my opinion) before Amazon bought it, and it still is.

The obvious question for me is, what happens to Shelfari?

I have an account there, and I have used it some. Social sites take a lot of work in you personalizing your use of it (ask the doomed Google Reader what people think when you take something away). Migrating to a new one is like moving to a new school when your are ten years old. It might be a better school, but it’s a still a hard adjustment.

Amazon just could keep running them both, but my guess is that they will migrate Shelfari accounts to Goodreads, and shut down the former eventually.

That’s going to be a bit complicated, because they aren’t the same, but there probably is a lot of duplication of features.

My guess is, though, that this is going to result in a better site for Amazon users. I do think they’ll lose some of the anti-ammys (People who are against Amazon…I just made that one up), but they’ll make up for it with other people.

The acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of June of this year.

I’m looking forward to it, but I know that might not be your reaction. I’ve been a Shelfari user, but not really a Goodreads one (I’m going to start exploring the Goodreads options). Part of that was because you could import your books from Amazon to Shelfari, and I assume they’ll add that to Goodreads later.

I’m also curious about what your involvement with readers’ social sites has been up to this point:

I’m not quite ready to poll about what features you would like this to bring to the Kindle service, but feel free to make suggestions by commenting on this post. I’m particularly interested in what you love about Goodreads. 🙂

Thanks to my reader, Ed Foster, for giving me a heads-up on this! I saw the press release first, but it’s always appreciated. Ed linked to this

Publishers Weekly article

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


23 Responses to “Amazon buys Goodreads”

  1. Kristi Says:

    One of my favorite things about GoodReads is the dedicated iPhone app so I can check the name of the next book in a series on the go, or see if I had already read a book etc.

  2. Kristi Says:

    I like that there is a dedicated iPhone app so checking to see if I’ve read a book yet or which is next in a series is easy to do on the go. If they merge Shelfari in though I hope we can opt out or something as I use Shelfari as an inventory of my Kindle books and only add to GoodReads what I’ve read or am wanting to buy.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kristi!

      There’s an app for Goodreads in the Amazon Appstore as well…it doesn’t have all the functions I have on a desktop, though. I’m digging through the features…I appreciate your feedback.

      Shelfari and Goodreads are different enough that I would hope they keep them both or combine features…we’ll see.

  3. draegi Says:

    I am a goodreads “librarian” (user with the ability to add new books to the site). I’ve read lots of tweets and news articles worrying about what the future of goodreads will be. I would say that goodreads is the best place to find up-to-date information about authors, what they’re working on, and sometimes even their blogs, reviews and comments, unless they have their own website. Supposedly the reviews there are also more neutral, although I think authors can buy reviews there as easily as anywhere else. It’s also a website with amazing links to facebook and other social media stuff – I know you don’t see reviews and facebook as hand-in-hand Bufo, but I think that is one reason the site is so popular, especially for authors. Finally I’ve also seen some of Goodreads statistical analyses – they can be really clever at spotting patterns in the market.

    It will be interesting to see quite what Amazon has got out of this deal. Will they be embedding user reviews on their book selling pages like google books does? They don’t do that with imdb or shelfari, but those websites are slightly different. Will authors carry on making profiles and blogs on goodreads if it’s not independent? Will we see more pushing of kindle books over other eformats? I suppose nothing for the first few months, and after that, only time will tell.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, draegi!

      I really appreciate your insight!

      Would you mind if I sent you some questions privately? I’m planning to dig more deeply into Goodreads as a user myself, then write something about it. I’d love to have an opinion I can use in the post from a long time (super)user.

      I’m not sure that they would embed reviews, since their own review system has, I think, been a big driver for Amazon and already appears on the page.

      Hm…one thing I’m not seeing from Goodreads is any equivalent of the “Book Extras” at Shelfari, which is my favorite part. That’s like a wiki for each book…people write character summaries, term definitions, themes, and so on. Is the user contributed content at Goodreads just narrative reviews and lists? Not that that would be a bad thing, but for a geek like me, the database type entries are also valuable.

      • dulcibelle Says:

        If you’re interested in the “Book Extras” type stuff, check out LibraryThing too. They have a very strong “Common Knowledge” section that includes the same type of information found in Book Extras.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, dulcibelle!

        I appreciate that! I’ll have to look at them a bit, too. 🙂 I say “have to”, but this sounds like fun research… 😉

      • draegi Says:

        No problem with the questions Bufo, although I wouldn’t say I’m much of a superuser really! I review most of the books I have something to say about but the site has a whole lot of functionality that I never use. You might be better off using the goodreads forums or asking a group of us.

        Having said that, my understanding is that all lists are public by default. If you go to a book, take your ILMK book for example, you can see it’s on three lists, and you can see each person who created a list. I think there is a lack of functionality there compared to amazon but since the site is for sharing ideas about books I don’t mind too much.

        When I first joined the site I was able to import my metadata from a previous review site. If you have already uploaded all your information to another review site other than amazon, you should be able to find a “download metadata” link which will give you an excel file. Some sites won’t let you download this, but goodreads is quite good at reading metadata from any other website that will produce it. Somehow when I joined they also managed to get all my reviews even though this wasn’t even included in the metadata, but I don’t know how common or important this is to you personally. If you find you have a metadata file use “my books” – “import/export”. I think there might be some programs which will automatically create metadata when you scan barcodes. If there are, and you don’t already have a metadata file it might be easiest to work on creating one of those rather than arduously adding books via the goodreads interface but I don’t know that much about it. I think it does over-write whatever you already have though, so depending on how diligent you might have already surpassed the usefulness of this.

        Finally, if you just rate books they automatically go on to your read shelf – you can then remove the rating by clicking on it again if necessary. This might be faster but you’ll still have to search for the books!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Draegi!

        I appreciate the advice!

        Could you check to see if you see that I have

        The Yellow Fraction


        If you don’t see it, my shelves are private.

        I also rated this one, to see if that makes it public:

        Very Sneaky, Andy Capp

        Thanks, I appreciate it!

        I don’t have reviews at other sites, so that doesn’t help. If rating it doesn’t make it public, that would speed things up. 🙂

        Let me think about the way to do the questions…I thank you for your insight on that.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      draegi (or any other Goodreader), I’m not quite clear on this.

      When I put my books on a bookshelf, who can see that? By default, is it everyone? If someone searches and finds a book I have on my bookshelf (but have not rated or reviewed), does my name appear there? If I rate it, does that change the visibility? My understanding is that if I review it, the review would become visible to everyone by default.

      Edited to add:

      I’m also finding it quite a chore to manually find books to put on my shelves. I can use the barcode scanner, but so many of my books are older and don’t have the proper code on them. Right now, I type in the title or author. I find the book. Then, it is always defaulted to “Want To Read”, so I have to change that to “Read”. Then, it opens up a big box for me to write a review or rate it. I scroll down to the bottom to find the Save button.

      I’ve noticed that if I say “Want to Read”, I don’t have to the big box, but I’d rather not be inaccurate like that.

      Is there a keyboard shortcut for the “Save” button? Is there a way to get it to default to the “Read” shelf?

      Thanks in advance!

      • draegi Says:

        On both the Yellow Fraction and Very Sneaky book feeds I can see a post saying that you added the book. I can’t see your profile because it’s private. I also can’t see your rating on either one which is strange, because I can see other peoples’ ratings on the two books.

        With the shelves I think I was wrong – I can see which shelves people have added the books to, but I can’t see who the shelves belong to, and all shelves of the same name seem to be merged as a “genre” on the main site, so unless your shelf has your name on it’s fairly innocuous. I also can’t see any “read” shelves on the list, so that one must be private like you thought. I expect if I was your “friend” then I would be able to see all your shelves, without seeing at the same time all the other books given the same shelf tag, but as it is I can only see the shelves which books are on.

        If I go to your profile I can see nothing except that you’ve rated one book, and that your average rating is 3 stars. I can’t see which book that is. I also can’t see a profile picture if you have one, and (if you’ve added one) I can’t see your second name, you only come up as Bufo.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, draegi!

        Very interesting! So, there appears to be no way to keep people from knowing which books I have added…that’s good to know. 🙂 I had hoped to add a wide variety of books before making it public…I’m sure what books people see influence their opinions of you, and it seems natural that I would add books of a similar type at the same time, either by working through an author or by a physical shelf in my house.

        Interesting also that it only comes up as Bufo! For most people, that wouldn’t be much of an identifier, but in my case… 😉

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I always felt that library thing and shelfari were more about personal library management than social (at least that’s how I used them). I’ve always been a little disappointed that amazon didn’t do much with shelfari after the acquisition. Perhaps this will lead to some book collection improvements. 😊

  5. tellthetruth1 Says:

    I tried Scribd twice, but came out again each time. My books are all now from Amazon, either real or electronic. Nice write-up, Bufo. Thanks. 🙂

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  8. Olly S Says:

    I think it would make sense for Amazon to merge Goodreads & Shelfari. It would seem counter-productive for them to have two services that do essentially the same thing. The issue is HOW they merge them. Currently Amazon pulls in a lot of structure social data from Shelfari, so I am sure they would want to keep this? Shelfari also has a much nicer UI that GoodReads could learn from.

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