Goodreads is a vile website, both shopworn and sharp-edged. There, the machinery of social media and engagement-generation was applied so ruthlessly to books that Amazon itself was outgunned and ended up buying it. Years later, Goodreads stagnates even as its near-monopoly persists, a wedding of the worst excesses of online commenting, fiction fandom and tech-biz social engineering. The lies, the insecure hatereaders, the impassive tolerance of toxic behavior—all are brought to bear, without mercy, on authors at the precarious margins of career security. And after all that, it's all but useless as a discovery service. At The New Stateman, Sarah Manavis hopes that its "reign of terror" will soon come to an end.
There should be nothing in the world more benign than Goodreads, a website and app that 90 million people around the world use to find new books, track their reading, and attempt to meet people with similar tastes. For almost 15 years, it has been the dominant platform for readers to rate books and find recommendations. But many of the internet's most dedicated readers now wish they could share their enthusiasm for books elsewhere. What should be a cosy, pleasant corner of the internet has become a monster.
She examines in depth why potential competitors have failed, so far, and why The StoryGraph, a book discovery site in the UK, has a good chance of succeeding. The problem, in a nutshell: Goodreads has a virtually insurmountable advantage in its access to Amazon's library and user data.
Stacked against the likes of Facebook, a company that admits it was used to incite genocide in Myanmar, it might seem weird to complain about a book site. But Goodreads is a pure example of just how broken a platform can be for humans while being just good enough to hold a monopoly over their attention.