January 30, 2012

Goodreads quits sourcing data from “restrictive” Amazon


More signs of push-back against Amazon this weekend: Goodreads, the literary social networking site that not only allows readers to discuss books they’re reading, but offers core data about those books, allows readers to store and share information about what they’re reading, and facilitates buying those books, announced on Friday that new terms from Amazon for using that data were “so restrictive” that Goodreads is taking its business elsewhere.

According to a Paid Content report by Laura Hazard Owen, a company statement says “the terms now required by Amazon have become so restrictive that it makes better business sense to work with other data sources.” So as of January 30, GoodReads is switching over to Ingram, the book wholesaler.

As Own details it:

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.

The company’s announcement stresses to members that “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.”

So what about books that are only available through Amazon — say, self-published Kindle books? “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,” says the statement … although why do I get the sense they don’t mean it?


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives