Tuesday, 24 September 2013

On GoodReads, Author Behaviour and Where We Go Next

There are shenanigans currently going on at the GoodReads website, since its take-over by Amazon.  Now, I have nothing against Amazon—if fact I buy from their site semi-regularly and find it quite handy.  But other people are not feeling so generous towards them.

There was a lot of trepidation earlier this year when Amazon bought GoodReads.  Many people jumped ship at that time and started their own blogs and websites on which to publish their books reviews.  Mind you, these are the people who are producing lovely, thoughtful, well-written reviews.  They spend a great deal of time putting their thoughts together in order to share them with the rest of us.  I appreciate my GoodReads friends, who have brought books to my attention that I would never have heard of otherwise.  Often, the review of a thoughtful friend will reveal aspects of a book to me that I would never have appreciated on my own.

Lately, there seem to have been some “incidents” between some authors and some reviewers on the GoodReads website.  Namely, some authors have gone postal on some reviewers who gave them less-than-stellar reviews.  And there are some reviewers who seem to get all their satisfaction in life by tearing apart the hard work of authors, who after all have a hard job: writing well, telling a decent story and entertaining us, their readers.  Having said that, some books are just stinkers and there are polite ways of making that clear without abusive language.

Let it be hereby acknowledged that the numbers of authors & readers engaged in this hostility are a very, very small percentage of the total number of people who use GoodReads.  Amazon, however, seems to have come down hard in favour of the misbehaving authors—many people are finding their reviews disappearing from the website, sometimes whole “bookshelves” if the name of those shelves suggests criticism of an author’s behaviour (i.e. authors behaving badly).  No warning, no notice, just deletion.

Issues like this are on people’s minds lately, as we deal with situations like the anti-publicity campaign for the movie of Ender’s Game.  I loved the novel, which I read back in the 1980s when it was first published (and plan to re-read in the near future as part of my reading project).  However, in the last few months, there has been an emphasis on the personal views of its author, Orson Scott Card.  He is not, to put it mildly, a supporter of the LGBT community.  And that community has decided to make an issue of this new movie, stating that buying a ticket to it is enriching the author, giving him more money to spread more anti-LGBT propaganda.  It’s an economic argument that has some legitimacy to it—do I as a movie goer want to support someone with this viewpoint?  I think that is an issue on which each person needs to make their own decision, but they need to be supplied with the relevant information from which to make that decision.  Amazon/GoodReads seems to disagree with me on this crucial point and they are deleting such discussions.  Period.

It’s also ironic that this is going on during Banned Book Week—apparently it’s Banned Book Review Week on GoodReads.  Also, I have seen instances of 5 star reviews (the rating system on GoodReads is one to five stars) which have been deleted as well, for unknown reasons.  As a result, I am going to be moving some of my favourite reviews from GoodReads to The Next Fifty as a preventative measure.  Not that I believe my reviews are deathless prose, but I would like to keep track of my thoughts on some of my favourite books.  As a result, there may be more book reviews that usual on this blog and some of them will be from my reading past.  

Please bear with me as I save some of my babies from potential oblivion.

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