Goodreads is a social cataloging website that allows individuals to freely search its 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. The website's offices are located in San Francisco. The company is owned by the online retailer Amazon.
Type of site
|Created by||Otis Chandler|
Goodreads was founded in December 2006 and launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler and Elizabeth Khuri Chandler. 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 thirty employees. On March 28, 2013, Amazon announced its acquisition of Goodreads, and on July 23, Goodreads announced on their website their user base had grown to 20 million members, having doubled in close to 11 months.
2006 founding and funding
Goodreads was founded in December 2006 and launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler and Elizabeth Khuri Chandler. 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 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 application programming interface, which enabled developers to access its ratings and titles. Goodreads also received 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."
As of 2012, membership was required to use but free. 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. A month later, in November 2012, Goodreads had surpassed 12 million members, with the member base having doubled in one year.
2013 Amazon purchase
In March 2013, Amazon made an agreement to acquire Goodreads in the second quarter of 2013 for an undisclosed sum. Amazon had previously purchased the competitor Shelfari in 2008, with the Goodreads purchase "stunning" the book industry. The Authors Guild called it a "truly devastating act of vertical integration" and that Amazon's "control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable." There were mixed reactions from Goodreads users, at the time totaling 16 million members. Goodreads founder Otis Chandler said that "his management team would remain in place to guard the reviewing process" with the acquisition, with the New York Times noting that Goodreads at the time had a more reputable reviewing system than Amazon's.
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 in-person 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.
Users can add each other as "Friends", enabling easy sharing of reviews, posts, book recommendations, and messages.
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 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (version 2) and Kindle Voyage feature integration with Goodreads' social network via a user interface button.
Users can set themselves an annual reading challenge which constitutes a target number of books to be read in each year. A tracker is added to the users homepage which provides a progress bar given as the percentage of the target. The tracker also informs the user whether they are "on track to complete" their reading challenge and states the number of books "behind-" or "ahead- of schedule" they are. In 2018, over 4 million users set themselves a reading challenge.
Book catalog data was seeded with large imports from various closed and open data sources, including individual publishers, Ingram, Amazon (before 2012 and after 2013), Worldcat and the Library of Congress.
Goodreads librarians improve book information on the website, including editing book and author information and adding cover images. Goodreads members can apply to become volunteer librarians after they have 50 books on their profile. Goodreads librarians coordinate on the Goodreads Librarian Group.
User data becomes proprietary to Goodreads though available via an application programming interface, or API, unlike similar projects like The Open Library which publish the catalog and user edits as open data.
Amazon requirements 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. Some users worried that their reading records would be lost, but 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.
Competition and review fairness
In 2012, after a reviewer wrote a poor review of a novel, the novel's author and publisher discussed publicly on Twitter how to "knock it off" the front page of the novel's Goodreads page. This sparked a furore about the relationship between authors and reviewers on Goodreads. That same year, Goodreads received criticism from users about the availability and tone of reviews posted on the site, with some users and websites stated that certain reviewers were harassing and encouraging attacks on authors. Goodreads publicly posted its review guidelines in August 2012 to address these issues. Later, new owner Amazon modified its policy to include deletion of any review containing "an ad hominem attack or an off-topic comment". 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.
Regarding the 2013 Amazon acquisition of Goodreads, The New York 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".
Goodreads Choice Awards
The Goodreads Choice Awards is a yearly award program, first launched on Goodreads in 2009. Users are able to vote for the books that Goodreads has nominated and are also able to nominate books of their choosing, released in the given year. The majority of books that Goodreads itself nominates are from Goodreads authors. 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|
|8||Stephen King||Best Science Fiction (2011), Best Fantasy (2012), Best Horror (2013, 2017, 2018, 2019), Best Mystery & Thriller (2014, 2016, 2018)|
|Rick Riordan||Best Children's & Middle Grade (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)|
|5||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)|
|Sarah J. Maas||Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)|
|3||Sarah Andersen||Best Graphic Novel and Comics (2016, 2017, 2018)|
|Pierce Brown||Best Goodreads Debut Author (2014), Best Science Fiction (2015, 2016)|
|Ree Drummond||Best Food & Cooking (2012, 2015, 2017)|
|Colleen Hoover||Best Romance (2015, 2016, 2017)|
|J. K. Rowling||Best Fiction (2012), Best Fantasy (2016, 2017)|
|Angie Thomas||Best Goodreads Debut Author (2017), Best Young Adult Fiction (2017), Best of the Best (2018)|
|J. R. Ward||Best Romance (2010, 2011, 2013)|
|Rainbow Rowell||Best Fiction (2014), Best Young Adult Fiction (2013), Best Graphic Novels & Comics (2019)|
|2||Cassandra Clare||Best Goodreads Author (2011), Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2014),|
|Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers||Best Picture Book (2013, 2015)|
|Diana Gabaldon||Best Romance (2009, 2014)|
|Kristin Hannah||Best Historical Fiction (2015, 2018)|
|Deborah Harkness||Best Paranormal Fantasy (2012), Best Fantasy (2014)|
|Charlaine Harris||Best Fantasy (2009), Best Paranormal Fantasy (2010)|
|Paula Hawkins||Best Mystery & Thriller (2015, 2017)|
|Jeff Kinney||Best Children's & Middle Grade (2009, 2010)|
|Stieg Larsson||Best Mystery & Thriller (2009, 2010)|
|Amanda Lovelace||Best Poetry (2016, 2018)|
|Rebecca Skloot||Best Non-fiction (2010), Best Debut Author (2010)|
|Chrissy Teigen and Adeena Sussman||Best Food & Cooking (2016, 2018)|
|Andy Weir||Best Science Fiction (2014, 2017)|
|Mo Willems||Best Picture Book (2014, 2016)|
|Casey McQuiston||Best Romance (2019), Best Debut Novel (2019)|
|Margaret Atwood||Best Science Fiction (2013), Best Fiction (2019)|
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At Goodreads, we make it a priority to use book information from the most reliable and open data sources
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By posting any User Content on the Service, you expressly grant, and you represent and warrant that you have a right to grant, to Goodreads a royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide ....
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