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Amazon to acquire Goodreads, a social network for book recommendations

Amazon to acquire Goodreads, a social network for book recommendations


Goodreads to be incorporated into Kindle e-readers; deal likely to close in the second quarter of 2013

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Gallery Photo: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review pictures
Gallery Photo: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review pictures

Amazon will acquire book recommendation site and readers' social network Goodreads, according to an Amazon press release issued Thursday.

"People love to talk about ideas and share their passion for the stories they read," said Goodreads CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler. "We're now going to be able to move faster in bringing the Goodreads experience to millions of readers around the world."

"Amazon and Goodreads share a passion for reinventing reading," added Amazon VP Russ Grandinetti. "Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books… Both Amazon and Goodreads have helped thousands of authors reach a wider audience and make a better living at their craft. Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike."

"Goodreads and the team behind it are not going away."

On a Goodreads forum, Chandler writes: "I wanted to assure you that Goodreads and the team behind it are not going away. We have no plans to change the Goodreads experience and Goodreads will continue to be the wonderful community we all cherish."

In the same forum, Goodreads users voiced their concerns about the acquisition. "Can I ask what this means in terms of ownership of our reviews?" asks Abigail. "We have always been assured that we had sole rights to them (in stark contrast to Amazon policy, where reviews belong to the site), and that they wouldn't be reproduced elsewhere — is this still the case?" (Note: copyright for all Amazon reviews belongs to the writer, but Amazon has the nonexclusive right to display and sublicense those reviews in perpetuity.)

Still, many Goodreads users don't want their reviews, recommendations, ratings, or social graphs being owned or used by Amazon. On Twitter, Tim Maly called Goodreads a "data honeypot."

According to Amazon's press release, Goodreads boasts more than 16 million members and more than 30,000 book clubs. The site's preferred retailer is currently Barnes & Noble, with Amazon listed as the bottom option in a drop-down menu among several online bookstores.

Last year, Goodreads stopped using Amazon's free Product Advertising API because Amazon's terms required Goodreads to link back only to Amazon's product page for each book, not any other online retailer.

Goodreads gives Amazon a portal to sell books, and useful data about books and their readers

Amazon already owns Shelfari, a social and information network described as a "community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers." Together with Goodreads (as well as its own lightweight / somewhat anemic social notes network) Amazon will soon own the major online recommendation and commentary engines for new and old books. (Cataloguing site LibraryThing is probably the third, but with 1.5 million members, it has less than one tenth of Goodreads' reach.)

Goodreads experience to be incorporated into Kindle e-readers

This isn't just a play for a popular portal for book sales. Like IMDB does for TV and movies, acquiring Goodreads gives Amazon the ability to incorporate more data about books and their readers into its own web site and e-reading experience.

For book clubs in particular, the ability to share notes in common among a small, defined group of readers, potentially right in the e-reader itself, is a huge coup.

"Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time," writes Chandler. "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."