Amazon may spell disaster for the book industry, but giving up its popular app, Goodreads, isn’t necessarily the answer.
A few days ago I was informed by Goodreads that I have completed 82% of my reading challenge for the year. And this email prompted me to think about the platform.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has certainly been one winner who has profited from the crisis — Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. So far, he has made $24 billion just during the crisis, and there have been numerous calls within the book community to boycott Amazon for good — and in some respects, rightly so. It’s been years since I purchased a physical book from Amazon, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pry myself away from Goodreads.
Goodreads was required by Amazon in 2013 and has over 90 million users worldwide. It’s the only widely used social media for everything literature related which allows users to track their reading, browse book reviews and gain specific genre recommendations. It is also widely relied upon by authors who claim it can make or break the success of a newly published book.
Although some alternatives are beginning to emerge to challenge the hegemony of the platform, such as Booksloth, will it ever diminish in its power and influence? And should it?
During the pandemic, I’ve found myself not just reading more, but reading more book reviews and about books, I potentially want to read. I’ve become heavily reliant on Goodreads to not only track my reading but to find new titles and share my own reviews.
In the light of Amazon’s unrivalled success and unethical practices, should book-lovers be abandoning Goodreads altogether? Perhaps not, and perhaps it’s more complex than that.
I’ve had a Goodreads account since 2013 when I was just fourteen and beginning to discover the wonder of books. Since then, I have used it to generate a huge list of books I want to read — it is my online To Be Read (TBR) list that I couldn’t live without. Granted, I could do this by hand, but it is much easier to keep track of with the Goodreads system — and you have access to it anywhere.
If I were to abandon the platform, I would either have to transfer the entire contents of my TBR list to another platform which would be hell, or start a new one altogether and mourn the 261 titles that I have built up over the years.
For me, it acts as a little time capsule of my reading journey over the years and one which I really wouldn’t want to lose.
Controversially, I also love that anyone can review a book on the platform and value how open the platform is. As an author, I can understand that this could be worrying, but users shouldn’t only rely on the reviews of books to decide whether they want to read it.
I actually read more reviews after I’ve finished a book than before. Goodreads makes it so easy for normal people to post their thoughts and responses to books they’ve read and I think it’s valuable for this alone.
Additionally, as a book reviewer who has a book blog, Goodreads is essential for promoting my own work and the books I have read. The interface runs smoothly with my blog and across my socials, and it may seem trivial and possibly selfish, but I wouldn’t want to give it up, and I know many other book bloggers wouldn’t either.
Lastly, to truly boycott Amazon, users shouldn’t give up Goodreads, but buying things from Amazon altogether.
However, there are inevitable downsides. Being a user of Goodreads, you are inadvertently supporting an unethical company that can also be detrimental to the independent bookselling industry. However, Amazon is already taking over the world and can an abandonment of Goodreads alonereally prevent this? It’s unlikely.
Like every rating system, the Goodreads one is subjective. One person will have a different interpretation of what 3 stars entails from another, and this could be made clearer. However, it would be almost impossible to enforce, as how can you regulate individual subjectivity?
No-one can doubt the rise of Amazon, its potential danger to workers and the environment, and its unrivalled wealth within the Jeff Bezos empire. However, boycotting Goodreads alone will not be enough.
Goodreads provides a space to formulate a reading community of people from all over the world, united by the common love of books and reading. It may not be perfect, but it’s the one form of social media I don’t walk away from feeling more negative after using. It acts as a time-capsule for my reading habits past and present, and I’d be very sad to give it up.
Do you use Goodreads? If not, why? Let me know in the comments!