So why did Amazon buy Goodreads and why do they intend to let the site run itself independently? Those are deep questions and not that easily answered unless you happened to be a part of the purchasing decision, which unfortunately I was not. But I can hazard a guess!
Even Google is having to sit up and take notice of the power of social media, they have admitted recently that what people say on Facebook and Twitter now forms a part of their assessment of the overall quality and value of a website in terms of authority and ranking. The reason why is because social media is all about humans engaging with one another and sharing their opinions on pretty much any subject you can think of. In other words social media offers something no algorithm can ever do, a human perspective.
So now take a step back and consider this, one of the biggest social media sites for readers, sharing the books they have read and what they think of them. This is word of mouth communication and if enough people recommend a book other people will go and buy it. It is no more complicated than that.
Clearly Google deals in all and every type of information, but Amazon on the other hand is a selling site that deals primarily in books as one of their staple offerings. Simply put more people on Goodreads and other similar sites recommend what books we should all be reading than on any of the other social media sites. That has to be a very attractive carrot dangling in front of the Amazon marketing machine and as with other search engines they will have realised there is only so much their algorithms can do without a human perspective and what better human perspective is there to examine than one that comes from what is probably the top book review site on the Internet.
Shelfari Versus Goodreads
I did wonder why Amazon needed Goodreads when they already own Shelfari outright? But the answer may come from the level of freedom the members have, they are allowed to comment however they want on Goodreads, well as long as they stay within the law. But it seems on Shelfari that some of the moderators have been: let’s say a little over enthusiastic with their censorship. People have stated that they have not been allowed to express their true views. That’s not really the point of a social media site, especially one that exists to review and recommend books. But who knows, perhaps Amazon have realised that Shelfari has got itself a bad wrap and decided it is better to make a fresh start with Goodreads. Or they may simply consider Goodreads to be another string to their bow, after all they already own Shelfari and through their AbeBooks division also own 40% of LibraryThing. That’s a lot of ownership of book review sites and lets not also forget that anyone who visits Amazon’s own site can leave a product review (books included) whether they have purchased that product or not. Non-verified purchases don’t carry the same weight in the Amazon search queries as verified purchases, but they do count to an extent and give Amazon that human perspective right there on the product page.
Whether they start to meddle with Goodreads only time will tell, but if they have learned from Shelfari, they would probably be wise to leave Goodreads alone and just use the data they can get from it rather than trying to control peoples reviews.
Making the Most of Goodreads
So what does Goodreads offer authors? Well if you are an author you can, once you are familiar with the site, get yourself an author account instead of a standard account. This immediately provides you with several benefits:
- You can add your books to the Goodreads book listings with your own description, cover image, links to distributor sites etc.
- You can create an RSS feed from your blog straight into Goodreads
- You can post videos
- You can create promotional events
- You can request reviews for your books from followers and friends
- You can join groups and add your books to those groups
You can also use widgets like the one below to engage with other people. Remembering that social media sites are more about giving than taking. Help other people out and eventually they will help you out. For me personally I think that should mean that you do an honest review of any books you have read and not try to game the system in any particular books favour. It is a tough call, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So you could love a book and the next person that reads it on your recommendation may hate it, but there is nothing you can do about that. So just play the honesty card and eventually the people that agree with you will follow your recommendations and those that don’t will not.