May 23, 2018

The Coming Book Social Network Shakeout

Today’s news of Amazon acquiring the popular book social networking site GoodReads gives one pause. That is because Amazon already owns Shelfari, and also has a 40% stake in LibraryThing — arguably three sites that offer the same basic value proposition. Allow me to speculate. And let’s be clear, that’s all this is — speculation.

Why would Amazon want to keep three different sites going that offer basically the same kind of service? Sure, what they really want is the user data — but why pay top dollar to get it by keeping three independent efforts going? Why indeed.

Jeff Bezos hasn’t gotten where he is by being a bad businesman, so my money is on a shakeout ahead. GoodReads appears to be winning the war of popularity in this space, according to Alexa Rank, so the smart money would be on GoodReads swallowing up Shelfari in a merger to gain the cost savings. LibraryThing is a bit more complex, as Amazon does not (yet) have a majority stake. Amazon could either let them keep going while siphoning user data out the back end, or it could make a play to grab it all. Whatever happens, I think the next few years will be interesting in this space.

Your own speculations are welcome in the comments.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Heinz Becker Özmen says:

    Tim Spalding’s thoughts about “LibraryThing: How to succeed in an Amazon/Goodreads world”
    The spirit of indipendence is still alive with the LibraryThing project.

  2. I think your speculation is dead on. I cannot think of a winning proposition that would allow both Goodreads and Shelfari to operate independently. The announcement made no mention of Shelfari, which is telling. If there were no plans to end this site, I believe that statement would have been included.