Over the years, Goodreads has become a major player in the publishing business. It’s a social networking site (with over 16 million members) that allows people to share and review what they are reading, and let the world know what they want to read. As an author, Goodreads has become important for getting word of your work out to the public. Good reviews on the site, as well as the buzzy generated by getting on people’s to-read list can help an author sell his/her work. A few of my stories have made it to Goodreads (and actually garnered a decent review here and there), and I actually have authors page there, too, but I’m otherwise not active on the site.
When Amazon announced in March that it had acquired Goodreads, it made my ears perk up. Amazon is widely viewed as the four-thousand pound gorilla of the internet book world, and it wields considerable power in the publishing industry. When I heard they had acquired Goodreads, I began to wonder what would mean for the site and its users, so I started to read around.
While many people have expressed “concern” over the acquisition, I’m not sure much will actually change at Goodreads. Amazon has a history of acquiring sites, and then leaving them be. For example Amazon bought IMDB in 1998, Audible and AbeBooks in 2008, the UK-based Book Depository in 2011, not to mention many others. For most of these sites, user probably noticed little or no change after the acquisition. I suspect it will be the same with Goodreads.
So why did Amazon buy Goodreads? It probably wasn’t for its revenue generation ability, because Goodreads doesn’t generate much revenue, and what little it does generate would be a speck of sand in Amazon’s vast revenue dirt pile. According to Digital Bookworld, Goodreads generated a modest US$2.7 million over its existence, compared to Amazon’s US$61 billion in revenue in 2012 alone.
More likely, Amazon wanted to prevent a competitor from acquiring Goodreads’ extensive data (hello 16 Million users). The reviews and associated “brand” identity, authority and trust that Goodreads has built would also be a signficant asset to Amazon, especially considering the recent issues with book reviews (e.g., bogus reviews, etc.) that have given Amazon a bit of black eye. Reviews attract customers to Amazon, and help convert browsers to buyers, so a lack of trust in these reviews could adversely impact sales. Goodreads can help with that problem.