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Good reads

Posted by on March 29, 2013

I curate my entire personal library  — currently just over eleven hundred books, but there’s room to grow — on Goodreads. Yesterday the word went out that Amazon has purchased Goodreads. Initially I was dismayed, because that’s the reaction everyone has when a Big acquires a Small. But once my knee calmed down and stopped jerking, I started to think it might be a good thing.

I’ve never ridden the anti-Amazon bandwagon, because I’m old enough to remember life before Amazon. People, it sucked. Remember (all you Olds) finding that fascinating first book of a trilogy buried in a used bookstore — Pamela Dean’s The Secret Country, just to take a random example — and then discovering the series was out-of-print and that unless you got lucky twice more, you were never going to know how it ended? (Unless you were dating Gene, who magically found the next two books for you and who to this day has never explained how he got them.) Now fast-forward to today, when almost every single book I’ve ever wanted to read is readily available on Amazon or through Amazon sellers, usually at several different price points and in several different editions.

I know there are consequences to using Amazon. And I’m sorry, I love used bookstores as much as the next bibliophile nutjob, but if the price of having the world of books at my mouse-clicking fingertips means brick-and-mortar used bookstores go extinct, then I’ll pay that price. (And I know there are other consequences too. So far I don’t care about any of those either.)

So now Amazon owns Goodreads and thus has access to far more of my reading data than they did before. Presumably they’ll eventually be able to scan my entire 1107 books when I visit their site, along with my reviews and ratings, and they’ll use that knowledge to try and sell me stuff which I’m likely to buy. And read. And enjoy. And this is bad how?

I worked for Amazon almost fifteen years ago and I remember Jeff Bezos ranting in his grandiose way about how eventually Amazon was going to take over the entire internet retail world. Well, speaking as someone who really enjoys getting Coralie Bickford-Smith books for almost half-off normal retail price, I say ride on, Genghis; I’m right behind you.

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