Friday, July 05, 2013

Further thoughts on GoodReads, plus some other things (or making a clean break ain't easy)

"Just when I thought I was out. . . they pull me back in." -- Michael Corleone, from the film The Godfather, Part III.

When I decided to wean myself out of GoodReads (see here for those details), I figured it would be a clean break. It did take me a bit of time to discover an alternative, but I did find one in BookLikes. However, it seems that some breaks are not as easy to carry out as others. This is going to be a bit of a ride, so I am warning my four readers now.

I recently registered with NetGalley and became one of their reviewers. It seemed like a good thing for a librarian and avid reader like me to do. It is an interesting experience as it has allowed me to discover and read new books and to share what I read with others. Publishers do like, and expect (to varying degrees), for you to provide them with feedback. Blogging is one way to do that. But they also prefer (again, to varying degrees, some more vociferously than others) that you share in social media and places like Amazon and GoodReads, which is now an Amazon subsidiary. This has not been really an issue in Netgalley, but it has been for others I have worked with. Allow me a moment to look over those two: Amazon and GoodReads.

Amazon reviews, to publishers and a lot of authors, are big currency. Let's be blunt: a book is not that great, but if an author can get enough friends, fans, friends of friends, friends of fans, etc., to write a favorable review with three stars and up, that not so great book will go up in rankings and (presumably) in sales. Reviews don't have to be terribly substantial or thoughtful. A few words describing how you liked the book is enough. In many cases, you don't even have to have read the review in order to "review" it. There is a caveat to all this. You do have to be a paying Amazon customer to be able to review in Amazon. I learned that lesson when I was invited to review a title, and when ready to review (at the inviter's request) on Amazon, I could not because I am not an Amazon customer (nor do I have plans to be one any time soon). However, the inviter was mollified when I mentioned that I had at the time a very active GoodReads account. Interestingly enough, this was a few days before the site dropped its bomb of an announcement. At any rate, I did post the review there in addition to posting in my blog and disseminating on social media. I do know that I will probably not review for that inviter or a few others any time soon. It's not out of spite or other ill sentiment from either party. Inability to play the Amazon game is an automatic disqualifier in many book reviewer circles.

On a side note, I will say that, as a professional academic librarian, I don't pay attention to Amazon reviews when it comes to collection development. There is a reason that librarians with standards look to reputable and/or professional review sources to help with collection development. Some of those reasons I have mentioned above.

This leads me back to GoodReads. Many publishers and authors do like GoodReads and encourage folks like me to share their reviews there. While it has lost some luster for some folks due to their selling out, it remains a popular place for book discussions, reviews, so on. A question I have is how long before Amazon starts gaming the reviews there. After all, they have to monetize their purchase somehow, but that answer is one for another day. The point is this is something I can easily do when I have to review something for someone, i.e. not stuff I read personally, say from the library or my own purchase. You know, the leisure and lifelong learning stuff. Not that reading to review for others is not fun. I try to be selective about what I share in reviews (that may be another post for another time). So, in a spirit of compromise, I am partially going back to using GoodReads.

Yet there is another reason to check into GoodReads now and then: friends. Apparently, a few of them recently joined GoodReads, and apparently they find my book shelves, so they send me a request to be their friend over there. If it was some other social platform, or as it happens on Facebook, some spammy game, I'd ignore them. Since they are readers, they are a bit harder to ignore for me. Readers tug at my heartstrings, what can I say? So they do pull me back in.

So, I figure I may try something out. BookLikes recently implemented a feature to let you synchronize with GoodReads. In other words, I can pus stuff from BookLikes to GoodReads so I don't have to post twice. We'll see how it works. I can say I am pretty happy with BookLikes so far (I may write a small review of the site later). In the end, this is also illustrative of how some social media, once it gets embedded into your life and routines, it's harder to break off. I did build a pretty good reputation on GoodReads as a reader and librarian (yes, I even have "librarian" status there). So, it's been a learning experience for me.

Now, don't get me started on Facebook. That's a whole other can of worms.

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