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Amazon's purchase of Goodreads panned -- on Goodreads

March 29, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • Users of Goodreads.com — which Amazon confirmed Thursday they will acquire — are expressing their discontent with the site and Amazon itself in online forums.
Users of Goodreads.com — which Amazon confirmed Thursday they will… (David McNew / Getty Images )

Over at the social reading website Goodreads, people take pleasure in writing reviews. Usually, they write about the books they’re reading. But in the last 24 hours, many have taken to reviewing Goodreads itself, and its sale to the book behemoth Amazon. And the reviews are not good.

"I'm devastated by this news," wrote a user named Bryn in a Goodreads forum.

"I have a really bad feeling about this," wrote Terri. "I am actually feeling sick to the stomach."

The sale was announced Thursday. Goodreads not only allows users to post reviews, it also allows them to form online book clubs, and to cite and share passages from books. In an interview with The Times, Goodreads founder Otis Chandler said "both companies are really passionate about books, and seeing into the future."

But over at Goodreads itself, many users said they were afraid their reviews would become property of Amazon and would be cross-posted on the Amazon website. Or that Amazon might “censor” or edit their reviews according to Amazon’s much stricter guidelines.

A Goodreads user named Becky asked: "Will reviews be removed based on [Amazon's] terms when they were deemed allowable here? Will Amazon be determining review removal? Will this mean that Goodreads will now have up/down-voting for reviews? I sincerely hope not on all counts."

Others noted that Amazon already owns another social-networking reader site, Shelfari.

"Great its [sic] shelfari all over again," wrote Stefani. "I refuse to buy from amazon for a dozen reasons. Then they took over shelfari and took that straight to hell so I left and came here. Here we go again."

Users of Amazon’s Kindle will likely be able to integrate that device with their Goodreads accounts. This left at least one Nook user worried.

"I'm already feeling boxed into a corner because Amazon is trying to dominate the ebook market, and I certainly don't want to be further discriminated against because I don't have (nor ever want) a Kindle," wrote Chris.

A company spokesman entered the discussion on the Goodreads forum and said:

"I know there will be a ton of questions about this, and we're going to do the best we can to answer them. Our review policy seems to be a frequent topic of concern, so let me reassure you that we have no plans to change how we handle reviews. We do not expect to switch to Amazon's review policy."

A few Goodreads users suggested they might move to the website LibraryThing. And over at LibraryThing, founder Tim Spalding was celebrating. He called the acquisition "GOOD NEWS," and added "I’ve been wanting this forever."

"When startups get bought they slow down or worse," Spalding continued. "When Amazon bought Shelfari, our other competitor, it just languished… While outright Amazon hatred is a minority feeling, it's a real one, and something LibraryThing can benefit from."

Spalding’s post ended with an interesting twist. Amazon has an "indirect" stake in LibraryThing too, he conceded—it bought Abebooks, LibraryThing’s first minority investor. 

hector.tobar@latimes.com

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