What Does Amazon's Purchase Of Goodreads Mean For Book Industry?

Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Bensinger about Amazon's acquisition of the reader reviews site, Goodreads, and the implications for readers, authors and publishers.


Late last week, Amazon, which features reader reviews on its sales website, announced that it's buying Goodreads, a hugely popular reader review site. Now, the announcement jarred a lot of Goodreads fans and upset lots of reader-reviewers and authors too. Greg Bensinger has been covering the story for the Wall Street Journal. He joins us from KQED in San Francisco. Thanks so much for being with us.

GREG BENSINGER: My pleasure, hello.

SIMON: Why did Amazon want to inhale Goodreads so much?

BENSINGER: Well, Amazon, in addition to selling lots of clothing and other goods still sells a lot of books. And they'd like to sell more books. Goodreads is a site that people go to, to talk about books, to display books that they've read, to keep track of books that their friends have read. It's a social network essentially. And what I understand is that Amazon will take the Goodreads component and integrate it into their Kindle tablet devices so that you have an instant social network on these portable computers. It's something they haven't developed on their own yet or haven't developed for the public. And an easy way to do it is buy the company.

SIMON: How do you see Goodreads affected by this? The Goodreads community - do you expect it to be the kind of reader's community where it is now if it becomes an arm of Amazon?

BENSINGER: Well, the early indications suggest that it won't be. There are a number of users of the Goodreads site that I spoke to - and I wrote an article about it - that said they're leaving. They're closing their accounts and they don't want to be associated with Amazon. So, we can expect to see some turnover from people. And there is a concern that Amazon will know too much about its users. They don't want Amazon to know what books they're reading. As it stands today, Amazon knows is the books you bought but it doesn't always know the books you read. Say a neighbor gives you a book and you read it. On Goodreads, you're inclined to talk about that. And now Amazon will know even the books you don't buy and how you feel about them.

SIMON: And of a number of people that - and I'm going to use a word carefully now - are the number of people who just find this using information on one platform to deliver you some kind of information on another platform essentially monitoring what you're talking about to offer you a sale? There's still some people that find that creepy. Is that number of people, just practically speaking, disappearing because so many people are growing up with it now?

BENSINGER: Well, I think it's safe to say that it is. More and more people of various generations turn to social media in various ways. And I would say there's a general acceptance that some of your privacy goes out the window. The people on Goodreads felt that this was an independent website where they could go and interact with other people and do it without the commercial effort. Amazon is obviously a corporation. Their ultimate aim is to sell you things. So, they feel like some of that privacy is out the window, and it is in the effort of selling more goods.

SIMON: Greg Bensinger, reporter for the Wall Street Journal in San Francisco. Thanks so much.

BENSINGER: Thank you.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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