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Amazon Could Expand Recommendation Services With Goodreads Purchase


Online retailer Amazon has acquired Goodreads. It's a popular site where people who love to read exchange reviews and recommendations about books. As NPR's Lynn Neary reports, Amazon now has a powerful new tool for enhancing its customers' ability to find out about books they might want to buy.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: In 2007, Otis and Elizabeth Chandler started Goodreads in their living room. They wanted to create an online community of readers who could talk to each other about books. Now, Goodreads is the world's largest book recommendation site. It has 16 million members, and there are more than 30,000 book clubs on the site. And this is not just a folksy discussion group. Goodreads founder Otis Chandler says its book recommendation engine is a powerful data collector.

OTIS CHANDLER: And this a Netflix-level, in terms of its technology, recommendation engine that basically looks at, you know, 20 billion data points we have about books from people having rated, reviewed them, tagged them and all kinds of things like that. And we put that altogether and we look at all the books you've read and we look for patterns, and then we try to recommend you books that are going to be interesting based on what other people in their communities thought.

NEARY: It's not surprising that these kinds of numbers attracted Amazon, which has been looking for ways to make it easier for customers to discover books online. Amazon hasn't said how much it paid for Goodreads nor has it revealed any details about the sale. Chandler says the relationship with Amazon means there will be better features and integration for Goodreads members who read on Amazon's Kindle.

CHANDLER: For the rest of our members who might read on paper books or hard covers or even NOOKs or other digital devices that aren't Kindles, we don't plan very much to change other than changes we were planning to do anyways, improving the site and making it better and easier to connect to your friends and get good book recommendations.

NEARY: Chandler says Goodreads members who use a Kindle have been asking for this kind of integration for a while. But after the news was announced, a lot of comments on the site expressed concern about the Amazon acquisition. Some questioned how their reviews will be used by the online retailer. Chandler says they needn't worry.

CHANDLER: I think people are wondering about control because this is a change, and it makes people uncertain and nervous. And that's understandable. And people don't want their Goodreads reviews to appear on Amazon without them knowing or being able to control that. And the answer is on Goodreads, you've always been able to control your reviews and where they appear, and that's something that's going to continue.

NEARY: But perhaps one comment summed up the naysayers best: Sad for me and sad for the Internet, which will soon be owned by Amazon and Facebook along with our souls. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.