I’m slow to blog about this because I’ve frankly been reeling. I’ve spent the last week since the announcement of the Amazon takeover of GoodReads in mourning, and exploring what my next oasis would be. I imagine this is what many Facebook users would feel if you woke up one day and discovered that you had 3 days and couldn’t use it anymore. Where would you go? What would you do? I don’t use Facebook (except for the shop here) but used GoodReads like most people probably use Facebook – obsessively for the last 5 years. It was a tab always open on my internet browser, and I checked it throughout the day many, many times, to see what my friends were reading, to check out books and authors, and to update my own reading. Losing this has been more than a little heartbreaking for me.
But GoodReads is still here, you say. Well, yes, at least for now. We don’t know what changes are coming down the pike (although it’s easy to imagine some) but regardless, the community will not be the same, as many people are jumping ship. Why be so rash, you ask. There are a few reasons that most people seem to be citing for their leaving of GoodReads. 1. Reviews on GoodReads will now belong to Amazon, and people did not write their reviews with that in mind. Many people do not want to contribute to a large corporation, and that having their information bought feels like being commodified. And most people do not take seriously Amazon reviews, as on that site people pay for good reviews, people review based not on the product but on the seller, Amazon takes some reviews down for seemingly no reason, etc. 2. Many people do not want to be associated with Amazon in any way, as they have historically treated their workers badly, evade taxes that they can afford but that significantly impact the communities they base in, have (in spite of Jeff Bezos and his wife donating something like 2.5 million dollars to an equality of marriage campaign) refused to sell LGBTQ books, etc. 3. GoodReads used, in good faith, thousands of volunteer hours of users in order to help stay afloat a year or so ago when Amazon would no longer let them pull their data (or something like this) and those people worked extremely hard, and for free, and now feel betrayed. Many in the community itself feel betrayed as GoodReads has always been a place to talk about books with other booklovers, not a place to go that is owned and directed by a bookseller, who will obviously have motivation and intent to sell specific product. I leave GoodReads for all of those reasons, and especially because Amazon is trying its level best to destroy the book industry. They want to own every part of it, which hurts authors, publishers, readers, and bookshops. Obviously I am impacted as a bookshop owner, but even more, as a reader and lover of the book industry. I cannot be a party to this.
So I’ve been mourning. But I’ve also been looking. And while I’ll miss what I had at GoodReads, especially the connections I’ll leave behind, I’m excited about what I’m finding. I’m finding a community of people who are willing to give up something pretty important to them to stand for something they believe in. I’m finding other sites that aren’t exactly (of course!) like GoodReads, but that provide me with what GoodReads provided me. And as I never used the groups and discussions on GoodReads, one of these sites is giving me more already than I ever got from GoodReads.
I’ve compiled a small number of articles regarding Amazon, and also a small list of alternatives to GoodReads for anyone who is in the same boat I was in. I had no idea there were so many alternatives. I can’t speak for most of them, but the ones that I’ve chosen to go with right now are Librarything.com and booklikes.com, and I’m still probably going to give thereadingroom.com a try as well. (If nothing else we’ve learned not to put all our eggs in one basket, right?) Librarything has an amazing community, and its owner is committed to remaining in charge. Amazon does own less than a 40% stake in the company (by accident, as AbeBooks used to, but then Amazon bought them out) but to be a member of Librarything with more than 200 books, you pay a nominal fee, and this keeps enough money coming in that Amazon should never get their hands on any decisions or content. Booklikes is the most like GoodReads that I’ve seen so far, except your reviews are in the form of a blog. Also it’s European based and it feels like it was a pretty small place before all these GoodReads refugees came over. So things go a little slowly there, and all of the functionality you want might not be there yet, but they are more than willing to try to accommodate. That’s what I’m finding everywhere I look – all of these sites are seeing this as an opportunity to bring more people into their community, and are welcoming GoodReads refugees with open arms. Librarything isn’t going to change their (what to me, anyway, is a) clunky interface to look pretty like GoodReads, but their members are helpful, interesting, and I’m enjoying being there already. Both places make it easy to import your GoodReads info, although my dates are messed up in Librarything and my covers are messed up in booklikes.
A small price to pay, I think, for having found salvation so quickly.
Here are some other book sites, which offer some different things, in alphabetical order. At least one requires you to enter through Facebook:
— Are you on GoodReads? Are you staying? Going? If you’re going – where to? And what (if anything) does this mean for you?