Type of site
|Owner||Amazon.com (from Q2 2013 on)|
|Created by||Otis Chandler|
|Alexa rank||312 (August 2016[update])|
Goodreads is an Amazon company and "social cataloging" website founded in December 2006 and launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler, II, a software engineer and entrepreneur, and Elizabeth Chandler. (Otis Chandler II is the grandson of Otis Chandler, who was the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and is the great-great-great grandson of Harrison Gray Otis, the newspaper's founder.) The website allows individuals to freely search Goodreads' extensive user-populated database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys/polls, blogs, and discussions. In December 2007, the site had over 650,000 members and over 10,000,000 books had been added. By July 2012, the site reported 10 million members, 20 million monthly visits, and 30 employees. On July 23, 2013, it was announced on their website that the user base had grown to 20 million members, having doubled in close to 11 months. The website's offices are in San Francisco.
The Chandlers created Goodreads in 2006. Goodreads' stated mission is "to help people find and share books they love... [and] to improve the process of reading and learning throughout the world." Goodreads also addressed "what publishers call the 'discoverability' problem" by guiding consumers in the digital age to find books they might want to read.
During its first year of business, the company was run without any formal funding. In December 2007, the site received funding estimated at $750,000 from angel investors. This funding lasted Goodreads until 2009, when Goodreads received two million dollars from True Ventures. In October 2010 the company opened its API, which enabled developers to access its ratings and titles. Goodreads also receives a small commission when a user clicks over from its site to an online bookseller and makes a purchase.
In 2011, Goodreads acquired Discovereads, a book recommendation engine that employs "machine learning algorithms to analyze which books people might like, based on books they've liked in the past and books that people with similar tastes have liked." After a user has rated 20 books on its five-star scale, the site will begin making recommendations. Otis Chandler believed this rating system would be superior to Amazon's, as Amazon's includes books a user has browsed or purchased as gifts when determining its recommendations. Later that year, Goodreads introduced an algorithm to suggest books to registered users and had over five million members. The New Yorker's Macy Halford noted that the algorithm wasn't perfect, as the number of books needed to create a perfect recommendation system is so large that "by the time I’d got halfway there, my reading preferences would have changed and I’d have to start over again."
In October 2012, Goodreads announced it had grown to 11 million members with 395 million books catalogued and over 20,000 book clubs created by its users. Only one month later, in November 2012, Goodreads had surpassed 12 million members, with the member base having doubled in one year.
In March 2013, Amazon.com announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Goodreads in the second quarter of 2013 for an undisclosed sum. In September 2013, Goodreads announced it would delete, without warning, reviews that mention the behavior of the author or threats against the author.
In January 2016, Amazon announced on Shelfari.com that it would be merging Shelfari with Goodreads and closing down Shelfari. To prepare Shelfari members for the move, Amazon posted on Shelfari.com a prominent announcement stating, "IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Shelfari is merging with Goodreads. Learn More", as well as links to a page titled "Read the FAQ", instructions to "Download your data in a CSV file" (whose linked page is titled "Export Everything",), and instructions to "Move to Goodreads" (whose linked page is titled "Export Invitation"), along with two months to migrate their Shelfari content to Goodreads. Although Shelfari discussion threads will not be migrated (as Amazon would need permission from all conversants in order to do so), users were advised: "you may save your own data for your own records".
In April 2016, Goodreads announced that over 50 million user reviews have been posted.
On the Goodreads website, users can add books to their personal bookshelves, rate and review books, see what their friends and authors are reading, participate in discussion boards and groups on a variety of topics, and get suggestions for future reading choices based on their reviews of previously read books. Once users have added friends to their profile, they will see their friends' shelves and reviews and can comment on friends' pages. Goodreads features a rating system of one to five stars, with the option of accompanying the rating with a written review. The site provides default bookshelves—read, currently-reading, to-read—and the opportunity to create customized shelves to categorize a user's books.
Goodreads users can read or listen to a preview of a book on the website using Kindle Cloud Reader and Audible. Goodreads also offers quizzes and trivia, quotations, book lists, and free giveaways. Members can receive the regular newsletter featuring new books, suggestions, author interviews, and poetry. If a user has written a work, the work can be linked on the author's profile page, which also includes an author's blog. Goodreads organizes offline opportunities as well, such as IRL book exchanges and "literary pub crawls".
The website facilitates reader interactions with authors through the interviews, giveaways, authors' blogs, and profile information. There is also a special section for authors with suggestions for promoting their works on Goodreads.com, aimed at helping them reach their target audience. By 2011, "seventeen thousand authors, including James Patterson and Margaret Atwood" used Goodreads to advertise.
Additionally, Goodreads has a presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites. Linking a Goodreads account with a social networking account like Facebook enables the ability to import contacts from the social networking account to Goodreads, expanding one's Goodreads “Friends” list. There are settings available, as well, to allow Goodreads to post straight to a social networking account, which informs, e.g., Facebook friends, what one is reading or how one rated a book. This constant linkage from Goodreads to other social networking sites keeps information flowing and connectivity continuous.
The Shelfie App recently launched a Goodreads integration that allows users to sync their Goodreads account. Once synced using Goodreads, users can import their Goodreads collections to get either free or discounted e-books of the print books in their collection.
Goodreads librarians improve book information on the website, including editing book and author information and adding cover images. Goodreads members can apply to become librarians after they have 50 books on their profile. Goodreads librarians coordinate on the Goodreads Librarian Group.
Otis Chandler told TechCrunch in August 2012 that Goodreads would be "building more features allowing readers to update their profiles as they read a book" and was "talking to the Facebook team about building book clubs within the social network." He felt that a major reason for the recent growth in members was Goodreads' new Facebook Open Graph app.
Criticism and controversy
In January 2012, Goodreads switched from using Amazon's public Product Advertising API for book metadata (such as title, author, and number of pages) to book wholesaler Ingram. Goodreads felt Amazon's requirements for using its API were too restrictive, and the combination of Ingram, the Library of Congress, and other sources would be more flexible. However, some users worried that their reading records would be lost. However, Goodreads had a number of plans in place to ease the transition and ensure that no data was lost, even for titles that might be in danger of deletion because they were available only through Amazon, such as Kindle editions and self-published works on Amazon. In May 2013, as a result of Goodreads' acquisition by Amazon, Goodreads began using Amazon's data again.
Goodreads has received criticism from users about the availability and tone of reviews posted on the site; some users and websites have stated that certain reviewers were harassing and encouraging attacks on authors. Similary, it has been criticized for containing lots of positive reviews of racist books and a couple of racist quotes and having white supremacist users of the site.  Goodreads publicly posted their review guidelines in August 2012 to address these issues.  Several news sources reported the announcement, noting Amazon's business reasons for the move:
Where authors were threatening a mass account cancellation to protest the bullying, many of the reader users who commented on the announcement are now threatening the same thing. And while much of this might seem like nothing more than petty playground behavior between children who honestly do not have a clear good guy or bad guy, keep in mind that several e-book retailers incorporate the Goodreads' API into their sales pages, effectively posting book reviews that many in the Goodreads community know to be false, and nothing more than an act of revenge against an author; real-world sales decisions have been made by consumers based on these reviews.— Mercy Pilkington, Good E-Reader News
Regarding the 2013 Amazon acquisition of Goodreads, the NY Times said, "Goodreads was a rival to Amazon as a place for discovering books" and that this deal "consolidates Amazon’s power to determine which authors get exposure for their work." Some authors, however, believe the purchase means that the "best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books."
Readers Choice Awards
The Readers Choice Awards is a yearly award program, first launched on Goodreads in 2009. Users are able to nominate books of their choosing, released in the given year. The final voting round collects the top 10 books from 20 different categories.
Several authors have won multiple Goodreads Readers Choice Awards or the same award in multiple years. The table below sets out those authors to have won more than one award:
(Listed by number of wins, then alphabetically by surname)
|Number of wins||Author||Winning categories|
|5||Rick Riordan||Best Children's & Middle Grade (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015),|
|Veronica Roth||Best Book (2011), Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2011, 2012, 2013), Best Goodreads Author (2012)|
|4||Suzanne Collins||Best Book (2009, 2010), Best Young Adult Series (2009), Best Young Adult Fantasy (2011)|
|Neil Gaiman||Best Fantasy (2013, 2015), Best Graphic Novel (2009), Best Picture Book (2009)|
|Stephen King||Best Science Fiction (2011), Best Fantasy (2012), Best Horror (2013), Best Mystery & Thriller (2014)|
|3||J. R. Ward||Best Romance (2010, 2011, 2013)|
|2||Pierce Brown||Best Goodreads Debut Author (2014), Best Science Fiction (2015)|
|Cassandra Clare||Best Goodreads Author (2011), Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2014),|
|Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers||Best Picture Book (2013, 2015)|
|Ree Drummond||Best Food & Cooking (2012, 2015)|
|Diana Gabaldon||Best Romance (2009, 2014)|
|Deborah Harkness||Best Paranormal Fantasy (2012), Best Fantasy (2014)|
|Charlaine Harris||Best Fantasy (2009), Best Paranormal Fantasy (2010)|
|Jeff Kinney||Best Children's & Middle Grade (2009, 2010)|
|Stieg Larsson||Best Mystery & Thriller (2009, 2010)|
|Rainbow Rowell||Best Fiction (2014), Best Young Adult Fiction (2013)|
|Rebecca Skloot||Best Non-fiction (2010), Best Debut Author (2010)|
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