I’ve just heard the news that online bookselling giant, Amazon, have bought my favourite reading website, GoodReads.
I’m sure we all know about Amazon, and how far and wide its tentacles reach. As a bricks-and-mortar bookseller, places like Amazon are the bane of my existence, but also a kind of necessary evil. In Australia, you’re looking at paying about $35 AUD for a hardcover book, $26 AUD for a paperback. Larger format, glossy things like cookbooks are upwards of $50 AUD. I understand that this makes reading books that you own an activity for the moneyed-up. I’ve just looked up a deckle edge, new release hardcover book on Amazon: $14. While it makes my job harder, I think the problem really lies with the processes that set books in Australian stores at such high prices, not the fact that places like Amazon exist. If anything Amazon’s making owning books possible for students and part-time workers, rather than just those on high salaries.
The company that Amazon have “acquired”, GoodReads, is a website that allows readers to track their reading. Readers can enter data about books they’re reading (where they’re up to in their current book, their thoughts as they read, star-ratings when they finish) as well as taking note of books they’d like to read in future, and connecting with their friends. Readers can compare their favourite books with their friends’ favourite books. And the service that I worry might be affected the most by Amazon’s finger being in the pie – GoodReads offers recommendations based on your reading habits, and what you’ve rated highly in the past. When there’s no business being driven behind this feature, I love it. But when there is? I worry. I’m imagining a direct link to buying the book, which is great, but it also means we’d be linked straight up to Amazon, and most customers wouldn’t question this twice. Customers would just be funnelled straight from one service to another – and customers’ reading mode will be encouraged toward the Kindle. Not just eReading, but this particular brand of eReader.
And because of the nature of GoodReads, Amazon are getting their hands on a heap of information that readers are willingly loading onto the website.
I am just guessing here – only time will tell exactly what changes will come into play because of this merger.
The thing here isn’t that I have a problem with Amazon, but that we should all be a bit worried when business concerns come into the domain of services that aren’t trying to sell us anything. Or… weren’t.