Amazon Absorbs Goodreads

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

I was in a meeting yesterday from 4-5 pm.  I wasn’t looking at my email during that hour. Once the meeting ended, I glanced at my iPhone and noticed I had received 48 emails in the past hour. Something had happened.

Goodreads had been sold to Amazon.

This is big news in the publishing industry.  In an industry where Amazon drives the dialogue and dictates terms to everyone, Goodreads was one of the few independent players that had created something Amazon couldn’t – a reliable review system and a community of readers.

Many were shocked and surprised. My initial thought was also one of surprise. But after thinking this through (and 12-hours of reflection), it makes perfect sense.

  • Amazon has a history of “if you can’t beat them, buy them.” – Amazon bought out market leaders like Zappos.com (shoes), Diapers.com (baby goods) and Book Depository (world-wide physical book sales).  Amazon also bought out competitor Shelfari and owns a small piece of LibraryThing.
  • Goodreads is VC owned and time to cash out Forbes reported that True Ventures invested over $2-million into Goodreads. It has been seven years and although they were revenue-plus, my sense is the investors were not taking a lot of the company.  This is the big payday.  This is the day that VC’s work toward.
  • Selling eBooks is highly competitive – Many in the industry (including DBW) have speculated that Goodreads was gearing up to be an eBook retailer. But it is a rough world competing with Amazon and Apple. Plus, selling eBooks means an entire new environment must be established regarding customer service, the user interface and the way others treat you. Selling to Amazon takes care of those issues.
  • International expansion – Goodreads has expressed interest in expanding globally. The most recent in this interview from paidContent where it is discussed. It is a major step to set up shop across the world.  Amazon is already there. They are selling the Kindle in 170 countries.

Over the next few weeks there will be a lot of speculation as to what this will mean. Many authors, readers and publishers will lament that Goodreads “sold out.” I don’t see it that way at all. It is common for a successful start-up to be purchased by a larger, more established company. If they remain true to their community, they should continue to thrive. If not, people will find a different place/way to express their views.

Goodreads has created a wonderful environment for readers to gather. They built it up and they continue to grow. But to go to the next step beyond their current situation and to do so quickly, they need help.  Amazon provides that assistance. I wish them well.

It is the world we live in.

 

(image from Shutterstock)

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