The word is out. The biggest monopoly in the history of the book business is buying the biggest independent book review website. Most of what I’m reading about Amazon’s pending purchase of Goodreads is positive, but personally, it sends chills down my spine — and not in a good way.
If a big retailer like Barnes & Noble bought an independent objective review site like Goodreads, that would be bad. If a big publisher like Penguin bought an independent objective review site like Goodreads, that would be bad. Well, Amazon is both a big retailer and a big publisher.
Amazon’s recent lawsuit against book publishers and Apple allows Amazon to continue to set prices in the eBook industry, which takes money right out of the pockets of authors who have the chutzpah to have their books published by someone other than Amazon. They have purchased a number of small publishers and opened their own publishing imprint, so they are in direct competition with the publishers whose books they sell. And by purchasing Goodreads, they are taking control of the most influential independent book review site.
I was slow to get involved with Goodreads in the beginning. I rated and reviewed a few books, but didn’t really spend much time there. Then I discovered that the site was a great way to interact with my readers. All but one of my books was already listed there, and adding that remaining book was an easy process. Their author pages are easy to customize and easy to integrate with your blog.
Overall, I love the fact that Goodreads is independent, with no single publishing company telling them what to do. A book from Penguin and a book from a tiny regional publisher get exactly the same placement and the same amount of attention. No publisher controls the site. But we are losing that. Amazon is a publisher. A huge publisher. And when they purchase Goodreads, the site will lose its publisher-agnosticism, becoming another shill for a a company that isn’t lacking for shills.
One of my favorite features is that individual users can set the book buying links to include the vendors of their choice. If I want to buy from Barnes & Noble but not from Amazon, I check and uncheck the appropriate boxes and the links on every page change accordingly. I wonder how long that option will last when they become yet another subsidiary of Amazon.com? Farewell, objectivity.
The publishing world is a hard one for independent bookstores in the age of Amazon. It’s also a hard place for authors who have chosen traditional publishing. It’s about to get harder.