Why Is Goodreads So Valuable To Amazon?

In What's the Buzz by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Last week, the publishing world was all abuzz about Amazon’s $150 million purchase of Goodreads, a social network for book lovers with 16 million members.

But while the level of reaction varied from end-of-the-world gloom and doom to high praise for Amazon’s acumen, the key question remains: why is Goodreads so valuable to Amazon?

At The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann came up with a simple yet convincing answer: Today’s publishing industry relies on “super fans” — devoted readers who read far more than the average American — who then tell their friends what to read as well. By buying Goodreads, Amazon can “tap into those super fans. Simple.”

Weissmann points out that in 2008, just a little more than half of all adult Americans reported reading a book “that was not required for work or school during the previous year.” And to go even further, The Codex Group showed that just 19% of those readers read a dozen or more titles a year. “Or, to put it another way,” says Weissmann, “according to Codex just 19% of Americans do 79% of all our (non-required) book reading.”

He goes on to show that the way those ardent readers find their books is changing. According to Codex’ quarterly survey (over 30,000 readers surveyed in 2012), readers were relying less on finding new reading material at brick-and mortar-bookstores, and more by online media, as well as personal recommendations from people they know. What they’re not relying on, he Weissmann pointed out, “are recommendations from online booksellers, like Amazon.”

And to take it one step further, Codex then calculated that just 11% of book buyers made nearly 46% of all book recommendations. Weissmann sums it up like this: “The sorts of lit lovers who like to evangelize their favorite new novel are the same sorts of folks who tend to show up on Goodreads. And so, perhaps unsurprisingly, the site is a great platform for convincing people to buy books. Roughly 29% of Goodreads users told Codex they’d learned about the last book they bought either on the site, or at another book-focused social network. At traditional social networks, the number is 2.4%…So Amazon has just bought the ecosystem where many of America’s most influential readers choose their books.”

Read the entire article, along with some very cool charts, here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.