Why Goodreads is bad for books

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After years of complaints from users, Goodreads’ reign over the world of book talk might be coming to an end. 

The internet’s most dedicated readers are fed up. On a typical day, a long-time user of Goodreads, the world’s largest community for reviewing and recommending books, will make numerous frustrated attempts to find a major new release, to like or comment on or reply to messages and reviews, to add what they’ve read to their “shelf” or to find discover new titles. Across a huge range of reading habits and preferences, the one thing millions of Goodreads users can agree on is that Goodreads sucks, and is just shy of unbearable.

There should be nothing in the world more benign than Goodreads, a website and app that 90 million people around the world use to find new books, track their reading, and meet people with similar tastes. For almost 15 years, it has been the dominant platform for readers to rate books and find recommendations. But many of the internet’s most dedicated readers now wish they could share their enthusiasm for books elsewhere. What should be a cosy, pleasant corner of the internet has become a monster. 

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Goodreads started off the way you might think: two bookworms, in the mid-Noughties, wanted to build space online for people to track, share, and talk about books they were reading. Husband and wife Otis and Elizabeth Chandler say they initially launched the platform in 2007 to get recommendations from their literary friends. But it was something many others wanted, too: by 2013, the site had swelled to 15 million users. That year Goodreads it was bought by Amazon, an acquisition Wired magazine called “quaint”, given Amazon’s roots in bookselling before it became the store that sold everything. Even then, many Goodreads users already felt stung by the tech giant which had, a year earlier, changed the terms of its huge books dataset (which Goodreads used to identify titles). Goodreads had been forced to move to a different data source, called Ingram; the move caused users to lose large amounts of their reading records.

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Most stuck with it, however – not because of the platform itself, but because of its community. Writing in the Atlantic in 2012, Sarah Fay called Goodreads “Facebook with books”, but argued that “if enough contributors set the bar high with creative, funny, and smart reviews it might become a force of its own”. While newspapers mourned the decline of reading and literature, Goodreads showed that a large and growing number of people still had a real passion for books and bookshops. Thirteen years after the first Kindle was sold, printed books have more than ten times the market share of ebooks, but talking about books happens much more online. But now, for many, the utopia Goodreads was founded to create has become closer to purgatory.

Goodreads today looks and works much as it did when it was launched. The design is like a teenager’s 2005 Myspace …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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