Course:LIBR559M/Goodreads and Libraries

From UBC Wiki

Goodreads is a social network that revolves around the sharing of content related to books. Launched in January 2007, Goodreads now has 30 million members, 900 million books added, 34 million reviews, and claims to be “the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.”[1] Users can keep track of what they are reading and what they want to read, receive book recommendations, and write and read reviews. Goodreads proclaims that its mission is discovery - to “[h]elp people find the books they love and share them with friends.”[2]

Members can become Goodreads Librarians if they have added 50 books and apply for this status. Members with Librarian Status are able to “edit book and author data, add book covers, and combine different editions of books.”[3] However, professional librarians also use Goodreads to connect with patrons, and the large number of free reviews available on the site makes it "an important tool in finding and evaluating books."[4] Jennifer Fay, Library Manager with the Salt Lake County Library System, states that Goodreads is “a great way to publicize events and new materials, as well as to provide online reader’s advisory, and it’s free and easy to use.”[2]

Amazon Purchase

In 2013, online retail giant bought Goodreads for a reported $190 million.[5]

The purchase concerned many Goodreads users, who wondered how the change in ownership from a company independent from the publishing industry to one that makes money selling books would affect the service.[6] The purchase also stunned the book industry, with the Authors’ Guild reportedly calling the move a "truly devastating act of vertical integration."[7] The New York Times reported the deal "further consolidates Amazon’s power to determine which authors get exposure for their work."[8]

Goodreads founders and Amazon pledged that the site would stay true to its mission to connect people with books.[9]

Amazon benefited from the purchase with improved book discovery for its customers, the perception of credible reviews, acquisition of a larger social presence online, and enormous potential for data mining.[10]

Since the purchase, Amazon has integrated Goodreads into its Kindle e-readers and made it possible for users to connect their Goodreads and Amazon accounts.

Some Goodreads reviewers have accused Amazon of censorship.[5]

Amazon also owns Shelfari and has a minority stake in LibraryThing, two other social sites for booklovers.[11]

Ways Librarians use Goodreads


Like with many other social media platforms, Goodreads can provide a useful avenue for the promotion of libraries within online communities. An example of this is the partnership between OCLC and Goodreads, which involves various strategies to link users of the social media site to libraries and vice versa. This has proved to be an effective strategy, with Goodreads being responsible for more than 5 million web referrals to OCLC’s since 2007.[12]

Promotion through Goodreads is especially effective among young adult markets. Because so many aspects of their social lives occur online, it is vital for libraries to not only have an online presence, but a presence within young adults’ online community spaces.[13]

Collection Development

Due to increased engagement with the preferences of users or potential users created by Goodreads, many librarians use it as a tool for collection development. In a study on social media in the library by Taylor & Francis Group, one librarian commented, “it’s cool because when I’m connected with our user community on Goodreads, I also see the reviews they’re posting on books, which is awesome for collection development purposes."[14]

The site also provides an opportunity for librarians to network with each other and attain trustworthy opinions on the quality of specific books without having to read them.[15]

Patron Engagement

Librarians can also use Goodreads to enhance engagement with current and potential patrons. Goodreads allows users to create groups, and librarians have leveraged this feature in multiple ways. Many libraries have created book clubs in Goodreads, either as completely online groups or as extensions of their face-to-face clubs.[16] [17] Librarians can also use Goodreads to enhance their readers' advisory services. They can use the site's features to better track information about books as they gather it, view other librarians' book recommendations, and use Goodreads' own recommendation tools.[18] [15] Goodreads also offers a venue for putting traditional forms of book recommendations, such as staff picks and new and notable books, online. One of the more innovative ways that Goodreads can enhance readers' advisory is by allowing patrons to become a part of the process, with the ability to also rate, comment on, and suggest books.[18]

With all of these options, Goodreads provides an easily accessible and potentially more comfortable venue for patrons to ask questions or engage in discussions face-to-face. This is particularly valuable for users who are unable to come to the library and users who are interested in discussing books, but hesitant to do so in person.[17]

Librarians can also create their own personal accounts, where they can list, rate, and comment on books they have read, and patrons could go to these pages for recommendations.[17]

Criticism of Goodreads

Community generated review features, which have contributed to the success of Goodreads, have also garnered criticism. One of the concerns regarding the review feature is the possibility of “sock puppet reviews.”[19] Such reviews can either attack authors for malicious purposes,[20] or could be paid reviews aimed at promoting specific authors and books. Since the recognition of these false reviews, Goodreads has implemented a new online bullying policy,[21] [22] though the new policy has also attracted criticism and was perceived as a method of censorship.[5] The credibility of reviews can be seen as a point of ongoing criticism as the mass online review platform allows all users to create reviews equally.

The sale of Goodreads to Amazon also elicited criticism related to user privacy, with concerns that information collected on Goodreads might be used for Amazon’s marketing purposes.[19] Whereas one of the original benefits of Goodreads was that it cultivated a neutral community of readers, some worry that the purchase will allow readers to be targeted with specific books based on their reviews.[8]


  1. Goodreads. (2015). About Goodreads. Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 Brown, P. (2012 June 5). Goodreads for publishers, booksellers & librarians. Retrieved from Slideshare Web site:
  3. Goodreads. (2015). Librarian manual. Retrieved from
  4. McCardle, M. (2013 April 2). Will librarians still use Goodreads? Library Journal. Retrieved from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Miller, L. (2013). How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their best readers. Salon. Retrieved from
  6. Jonker, T. (2013). Welcome to the mothership: Amazon bought goodreads--now what? School Library Journal. Retrieved from
  7. Flood, A. (2013 April 2). Amazon purchase of Goodreads stuns book industry. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kaufman, L. (2013 March 28). Amazon to buy social site dedicated to sharing books. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  9. Chandler, O. (2013 March 28). Exciting news about Goodreads: we’re joining the Amazon family! Retrieved from
  10. Vinjamuri, D. (2013 March 29). Three hidden benefits of the Amazon acquisition of Goodreads. Forbes. Retrieved from
  11. Enis, M. (2013). Goodreads acquisition presents opportunity for LibraryThing. Library Journal, 138(8), 17. Retrieved from
  12. Goodreads and OCLC work together to provide greater visibility for public libraries online. (2012 November 9). Retrieved from
  13. Hughes-Hassell, S. (2003). Public library Web sites for young adults: Meeting the needs of today's teens online. Library and Information Science Research, 25(2), 143-156. Retrieved from
  14. Taylor & Francis Group. (2014 October). Use of social media by the library: Current practices and future opportunities. Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved from
  15. 15.0 15.1 Rapp, D. (2011). Crowdsourcing RA. Library Journal, 136(10), 56-57. Retrieved from
  16. Flynn Gilliss, A. (2014). A Novel Idea. American Libraries Association Magazine. Retrieved from
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Trott, B., & Naik, Y. (2012). Finding Good Reads on Goodreads. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(4), 319-323. Retrieved from
  18. 18.0 18.1 Wyatt, N. (2007). 2.0 for readers. Library Journal, 132(18), 30. Retrieved from
  19. 19.0 19.1 Herther, N. K. (2013). Goodreads: Social media meets readers advisory. Online Searcher, 37(4), 38. Retrieved from
  20. Armitstead, C. (2012 September 5). What does the sock-puppet scandal mean for online reviewing? The Guardian. Retrieved from
  21. Goodreads. (2015). Review Guidelines. Retrieved from
  22. Goodreads. (2013 November 18). Important Note Regarding Reviews. Retrieved from