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Summary:

Book-centered social networking site Goodreads, which allows users to keep records of the books they read and share the information with oth…

Lost book / uncertain book
photo: Shutterstock / sad

Book-centered social networking site Goodreads, which allows users to keep records of the books they read and share the information with others, has long sourced most of its basic book data from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). Now, saying Amazon’s API terms have become “more and more restrictive,” Goodreads is switching data providers and entering an agreement with book wholesaler Ingram — alarming some users who fear their reading records will be lost.

Goodreads used Amazon’s public Product Advertising API to source basic book data like title, author, page count and publication date.

Goodreads’ situation illustrates the risks of building a site around any retailer’s API, since that retailer can change its terms at any time. Amazon’s Product Advertising API license agreement has not changed since April 2011 but “the terms now required by Amazon have become so restrictive that it makes better business sense to work with other data sources,” the company told me.

Specifically, Goodreads finds two requirements of Amazon’s API licensing agreement too restrictive. Amazon requires sites that use its API to link that content back to the Amazon site exclusively — so a book page on Goodreads would have to link only to its product page on Amazon, and not to any other source or retailer. Goodreads links to many online retailers. “Our goal is to be an open place for all readers to discover and buy books from all retailers, both online and offline,” the company told me. Amazon also does not allow any content from its API to be used on mobile sites and apps.

The changes take place January 30. Goodreads’ new data source is book wholesaler Ingram. Goodreads will pay to license data from Ingram, and will supplement it with book records from the Library of Congress and other sources.

Goodreads stresses that most book records will be safe: “Not a single review, comment, shelving, or rating will be lost in this transition. That’s the most important thing-your data is 100% safe.” It’s calling on “Goodreads librarians” — users who’ve applied for and received permission to edit data in the catalog — to help verify data for some titles that may be deleted otherwise. Here are the books that need to be “rescued” — including many foreign-language titles.

Books that are only available through Amazon, like Kindle editions ands self-published Kindle books, have no alternative data sources. “We anticipate keeping these, and will bend over backwards for all our authors who publish via Kindle to make sure their readers on Goodreads have a smooth transition,” the company says.

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  1. A possible good future alternative to Amazon is http://www.gemm.com .

    1. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Idiotic Amazon Fail.
    I buy a ton of books every month at Amazon and I also use Good Reads. They work great together. These Amazon restrictions ridiculous. If Amazon wants to encourage reading and book buying they should participate without restrictions.

    Will this also effect Fantastic Fiction web site? It’s a similar situation.

  3. I have to disagree with DK.  Amazon can’t be expected to provide links to the competition.  They’re not the bad guy here (not denying they’re the bad guy elsewhere), but their position in the book world is incompatible with Goodreads.  It’s a divorce that was inevitable as soon as the marriage was consummated.

    1. Technically, Goodreads wasn’t asking Amazon to provide links to other sites. Amazon was requiring Goodreads to provide links to ONLY Amazon in exchange for sourcing from the site. I agree with Goodreads discussion fully. Amazon is trying to become a monopoly on the book market and we can’t allow that.

  4. Amazon owns Shelfari which is a site similar to Goodreads. I wonder if that had anything to do with it. I have accounts at both Goodreads and Shelfari, and tend to like Shelfari more.

    1. kimberly duquette Cyndi Saturday, April 14, 2012

      I’m going to look into Shelfari. Thanks for the tip.

  5. One point in the article is incorrect. Self-published authors own the rights to their artwork, so they are able to connect Goodreads to their webpage, which is what I did and other self-publishers are doing.

    1. How did you do that? I’m a self-published author and a little worried.

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