Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Amazon Gobbles Goodreads, and What it Means for Self-Published Authors

If you've somehow managed to avoid all writer forums, self-published authors, Twitter and the news, I've got some rather shocking news: Amazon owns Goodreads. You haven't noticed any changes yet, but you will soon. It's a big merger that begs a big question: what's it all mean for self-published me? 

The World That Amazon Bought

If it's on the Internet, there's a darned good chance that it's owned by Google, or Amazon, or both. Amazon pioneered online shopping. Then it revolutionized the book industry. Now, it's got some other plan that's either exciting, or terrifying...or both.

Goodreads is well-known to indie authors because it is the self-published author's best friend. Countless forums allow indies to use the site to market their work, find reviewers and connect with promotional opportunities on other book blogs. The site allows authors to acquire fans, share blog posts and keep all of their book reviews in one convenient place. It is the only site that even comes close to having as many book reviews as Amazon. 

And now, Goodreads is owned by Amazon. Every author knows that Amazon is already a well-established site. It's already got book reviews. It's even got writer forums. So what the heck is going to happen to all the stuff on Goodreads...and, for that matter, to all self-published authors in general? Is Amazon, the site that built the indie author, now about to kill them all? 

According to a blog post I stumbled across in my research, Authors Guild president Scott Turow is practically predicting Armageddon. He called the merger "a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built...the key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat." In a roundabout way, he even accused Amazon of attempting to control information in order to drive sales.

There's no secret to the fact that Amazon is in the business of making money. With more than 16 million regular users and many millions of reviews, Goodreads was in line to be serious competition. Now it's not. For Amazon, this was a pretty simple business move. The company also released a new Kindle model to compete with the iPad, and nobody's screaming "conspiracy theory" over that

But it is scary. Goodreads has become a warm and fuzzy home to many self-published authors. Amazon, to many indies, is still a towering mountain that's impossible to scale. As soon as you climb up the lists a little, you'll slide back down. So what does it mean for the self-published author? Will Goodreads continue to exist?

The answer is that no one knows what to expect. Amazon hasn't made any sort of big announcement, Goodreads has offered up a saccharine public statement about how swell it all is, and everything is pure speculation at this point. The smart money's on more of a complete merger, with Goodreads operating as a stand-alone book discussion community. This could allow Goodreads ratings and reviews to remain in place, but GR author pages could become a thing of the past. Amazon has its own author pages.

But only time will truly tell. If the Goodreads indie author community does fade away due to the merger, don't despair. The indies will band together again, somewhere new, and wait it out until Amazon (or Google) buys it.

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