The literary world gasped on Thursday when Amazon announced it had acquired Goodreads, a popular social networks that lets book lovers connect and share reviews with one another. The deal gives Amazon control of an influential literary taste-maker and provides it with access to a wealth of new book data — a development that is not sitting well with the Authors Guild.
“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” said Guild president Scott Turow in a statement issued on Friday. Turow claims that Amazon sought to eliminate Goodreads as a future competitor and that it has “squelched” an important source of independent discussion and reviews.
It’s unlikely anything so dramatic will occur in the short term. As executives from Goodreads and Amazon told my colleague Laura Owen, the book network will remain for now a standalone site and the first goal of the merger is to “do no harm.”
The data and marketing insight Amazon receives from Goodreads is likely to strengthen the retailer’s already powerful position in book selling. The question of whether this will lead to an Amazon “monopoly” is another matter altogether. Under American rules on vertical integration, a company breaks antitrust laws only it obtains a dominant positions and abuses that position to harm consumers.
Turow and the Authors Guild have already been vociferous critics of Amazon. Last year, Turow accused the company of using discounting to “destroy bookselling.” More recently, the Guild joined with the Association of American Publishers to demand that Amazon be denied control over new internet suffixes “.book” and “.author.”