Goodreads buys Amazon!

Eh? What?

Oh well, here’s a link to the Amazon Press Release, before you go reading the BBC’s or whoever else’s slant on the thing.

Personally, I’m really not sure of what to make of this one

I use Goodreads as a place to document my reading habits.

These get posted to my Facebook should anyone other than me be interested. And (very) occasionally they are.

I post reviews there and they send it immediately to my Blog. The one you’re reading now.

I do follow some other people. Not entirely sure why. Maybe so I don’t feel alone. Or so they can read my stuff?

Recommendations - OverviewBut I don’t use Goodreads for recommendations. It’s far too Amero-centric. And I really don’t like US book covers, on the whole. Especially their ‘I like it, but can we get another kitchen sink in that?’ attitude to book cover design. And then, just look at that The Norseman cover there. Would you buy that? If you’re over 16?

Recommendations - Medieval EnglandIf I look up Medieval Historical Fiction, something I’m very interested in, I find hundreds of books classing themselves as ‘Historical Fiction’. But are often basically bodice-rippers set in various periods from later Middle-Ages onwards. And consequently no good to man nor beast. If we look at the Recommendations > Medieval England,  as above, the first you’ll notice is a book set almost exclusively in the Middle East (Brethren), another set in Rome and Greece (Ship of Rome) and the first on the list Empire, is set in England sure enough, but in AD181. Which is pushing the ‘Medieval’ envelope beyond breaking point, and that’s not to mention the tattered ruin that is the ‘England’ envelope, I feel sure you’ll agree.

I did join the Ancient & Medieval Historical Fiction Group on Goodreads, but left after a falling out with the leader and ‘no post left unanswered’, all around general busy-body ‘Terri‘. She took exception to me taking exception to a thread which I thought was *removed what might be slander* and *ditto* at best. I actually took all of my worst comments about that out of my original post and just pointed out that the opinion of several posters in that thread’s idea that it was something to be proud of, having worked in a job where there was serious risk of physical injury, at the age of 13, wasn’t actually something to be overly proud of. In my opinion. Obviously, not being *removed due to cold feet* and being pissed off to the extreme with this ‘Terri’ person’s quite distasteful habit of posting a reply to every single other post on their group, meant I didn’t fit. I was being ‘mean’. But I never got a recommendation or even came close to a thought of ‘must check that out’ in the, admittedly short, time I was a member.

Games Traitors PlayI also don’t read reviews on Amazon. Never have done, never will. I have posted reviews on there. Three, if I remember rightly. And they were at the request of an author I have read and posted reviews of here on Speesh Reads. Jon Stock liked my reviews, hey, I liked his books, so I posted them on the relevant book pages.

So why write reviews if I don’t read or use them myself?

Well, for me, writing a review is something I like doing.

I was in advertising for 24 years back in the UK. (We were a small firm, very much at the beck and call of the clients, rather than the other way round, which seems to be most people’s perception of the business through films and tv) I used to write a lot of copy for all sorts of things. TV ads, radio, newspaper adverts, brochures, pamphlets, you name it. Mainly because there was only me who could do it and we very rarely had, or managed to give ourselves, enough time or funds to send it out to a ‘professional’. So, somewhere along the line, I have gained the idea I can write. But I know it is only short things I can write. I have absolutely no ability, intention or inclination to write a book, novel or even a short story. Other people can do it a whole lot better than I can, so why not let them? You don’t keep a dog and bark yourself? A Twitter post is generally all I can manage.

When I criticize a book, I do so based on my own gut feelings. What I really like doing, is struggling to put into words what my gut feelings were. What did I like or didn’t like and why about the book. It isn’t easy. It’s difficult. But I like it because it is a challenge. I don’t find it easy. I spend a long time on getting it just right – and it isn’t easy being your own critic as well. Was that right? Did I feel that way? Have I said it how I felt? Have I remembered the facts I’m criticising? (I quite rightly got picked up recently on Goodreads for spelling Sumerian, with two ‘m’s).

The Splintered KingdomAnd I wrote a review of ‘The Splintered Kingdom’, sent a link to James Aitcheson and had to have it pointed out by him that in at least two places, I referred to the book as ‘The Shattered Kingdom’. Not a bad title in itself, but wrong of course. So I do it for me, for my pleasure and mostly my satisfaction. That some other people find them interesting or even useful, I don’t know, is just lovely.

But I don’t read reviews. I look at the Publisher-supplied blurb on the back of the book when I’m in England – as I’ve mentioned before, English paperbacks over here are rare as rocking-horse shit, and cost the ‘nose from a jet fighter’ (to translate a Danish phrase), so generally aren’t even worth checking out. I read the publisher-supplied blurb on Amazon, but don’t scroll down far enough for the reviews.

There has actually been a fair bit of publicity recently about the trustworthiness – or not – of Amazon’s reviews anyway. As it has come to light that a lot of the positive reviews have actually been written, in disguise, by the author themselves! And there was a case I remember reading something about, where someone had traced all the reviews that could be safely attributed to one particular ‘reader’ and worked out that if they actually had read all the books they were claiming to be writing reviews of, they would need to have read 20-odd books a day, or something. A physically/temporally impossible amount anyway. Even if you allow for that they had the money to buy all the books in the first place! The New York Times ran an article on just this sort of thing the other day.

I don’t get paid for writing stuff here. I wish! I don’t get freebies either. I wish! I would say if I got sent a book by an author. And I would review it as if I’d bought it myself. I did get sent James Aitcheson‘s second novel, The Splintered (or was it Shattered) Kingdom by his publishers. I think they’d mistaken my blog with one that people read. Irritatingly, I’d ordered the book from Amazon the week before anyway and it arrived the week after theirs’ did! And I posted that I’d got it on here. That’s the only freebie I’ve ever had *sob* So send some more, this habit is costing me a fortune!

Hawk QuestI also use author recommendations. Ben Kane, for instance. I picked up one of his on spec once when I was back in England The Forgotten Legion it was. Then, after I read that and thoroughly enjoyed it, I saw his name pop up on the back of another book I looked at saying it was very good, I bought that. Now that I’m following him on Twitter, it is of course easier to follow his recommendations. I don’t buy everything he recommends, he’s seriously a lot more into Rome and all things Roman than I am and a lot of that is clearly not what I’m interested in. But if I have the book on my radar anyway, or he makes it clear in his description that it is a subject that I have an interest in or am open to, then I will maybe give it a go. The magnificence that is Hawk Quest comes to mind as following that route. Though I don’t remember it having been made into a film, looking at what they’ve done to the cover there. Mine is a lot more laid back. And better for it.

Otherwise, I read about subjects I’m interested in. I’ve always, ever since a young boy joining the Ancient and Medieval History Book Club, been interested in the Vikings. So I am open for anything Viking-related. How I got into Robert Low and Giles Kristian. And, I live over here in Viking-land now. Where the Vikings come from, if you follow the reasoning that they were all called ‘Danes’. And I love spy stories and I love Len Deighton and so to find that all these things collide in Jeremy Duns, makes reading his Tweets and recommendations very satisfying. See how it works?

So where does that leave me with the news that Amazon have bought Goodreads?

Part of me hopes they leave well alone. But knowing the on-line world’s usual maxim of ‘fixing what ain’t broken’, another part of me knows they’ll change it. If they absolutely have to then, hopefully they’ll start with the website design. It’s dreadful. Goodreads could really do with bringing into the 21st Century. Then, I can well imagine that when I write a review on Goodreads, it will also post on the book’s page on Amazon – with the swear-word spelling suitably altered, of course. I mean, you write a review including shit or fuck or anything else that gets shown or said on Danish tv at all and any time of the day without a blink of the eye, on Amazon and see how it is uploaded. I hope they still allow for the review to be sent to your blog as well, though it wouldn’t surprise me a jot if that was turned off. Amazon will only want you going to their site for the buying of the book, not to my site for a review. Even though I use links to Amazon when I up-date my reviews for use on the blog (sending a post from Goodreads sends the text, but no links, tags or sections or links. These I add later). Amazon however, really don’t like outside programmes using their database. For instance:

Delicious Library

I can recommend a book/film/stuff cataloguing programme called Delicious Library. I use it on my Mac here. A couple of years or so ago, there was also an app for Delicious Library on the Apple App Store. I got it immediately. Then it got withdrawn, never to appear again. This is what it says on their Wikipedia page:

The only Delicious Library app was withdrawn from the iOS App Store in July 2009. Amazon had asked for the app to be removed due to violation of the Amazon API terms and conditions section 4e “(e) You will not, without our express prior written approval requested via this link , use any Product Advertising Content on or in connection with any site or application designed or intended for use with a mobile phone or other handheld device.” N.B- The terms and conditions have since been updated

No idea what all that means. Such a shame. But great that I still have it and it still works! Hoorah!

But, I think it all goes to show that Goodreads is good, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Amazon is good – it’s pretty essential for me really – but there are other places you can get your e-books and real books. If I lived in the UK, I would, and I’m not making this up, buy from a real bookshop. Amazon is the closest thing I can get to that living here in Denmark. Goodreads and Amazon together, could be good. But only Goodreads can really benefit from this move, as I see it. And I hope, to all that can be hoped to, that they do it the right way.

The Jury is out…

*Cities – Talking Heads

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