Barely a year after founder Otis Y. Chandler hailed Goodreads' new "independence" from Amazon's technology — saying "we will celebrate January 30th for years to come!" — Chandler has announced that his startup is "joining the Amazon family." The press release from Amazon says the giant online retailer "has reached an agreement to acquire Goodreads, a leading site for readers and book recommendations that helps people find and share books they love." Chandler says in his note to members that Goodreads will continue for its 16 million members.
When Elizabeth and I started Goodreads from my living room seven years ago, we set out to create a better way for people to find and share books they love. It's been a wild ride seeing how the company has grown and watching as more than 16 million readers from across the globe have joined Goodreads and connected over a passion for books.
Today I'm really happy to announce a new milestone for Goodreads: We are joining the Amazon family. We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them. We also both love to invent products and services that touch millions of people.
I'm excited about this for three reasons:
1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.
2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.
3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture.
Elizabeth Khuri, Chandler's wife, is the former assistant style editor for the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine. Chandler is a grandson of the late Times publisher Otis Chandler. Amazon says that Goodreads’ headquarters will remain in San Francisco. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. "Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2013," Amazon announced.
Until the purchase, Goodreads was a rival to Amazon as a place for discovering books. Goodreads, which is based on networks of friends sharing reviews, was building a reputation as a reliably independent source of recommendations. It was also of great interest to publishers because members routinely shared their lists of books to be read.
By contrast, Amazon had several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews on its site. As a result, authors said Amazon was deleting reviews from its site at the end of 2012 as a way of cracking down.
The deal is made more significant because Amazon already owned part or all of Goodreads’ competitors, Shelfari and LibraryThing. It bought Shelfari in 2008. It also owns a portion of LibraryThing as a result of buying companies that already owned a stake in the site. Both are much smaller and have grown much more slowly than Goodreads.
Reaction online, however, was swift and laced with skepticism. “Say hello to a world in which Amazon targets you based on your Goodreads reviews,” Edward Champion, a writer and editor, posted on Twitter. “No company should have this power.”
Books blogger Jarek Steele had an immediate bad reaction to the news. "Really, Goodreads? You’ve forsaken all the other opportunities to partner with independent bookstores, Kobo, even Barnes & Noble & the Nook? How about iPad? Also, who at Amazon has a love of books or authors?"
Photo of Elizabeth Khuri Chandler and Otis Y. Chandler, from Goodreads