Amazon Buys Shelfari

Shelfari LogoAmazon is buying Shelfari according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and confirmed by a Shelfari blog post. The purchase comes approximately three weeks after Amazon acquired Abebooks.

The two purchases are interesting for a couple of reasons. First is the continuing attention Amazon is putting into books. For many years Amazon pursued a ‘mall of America’ approach to eTailing. I believe this was a decent strategy during the days of dial-up connections, single tab browsing and high barriers of entry for eTailing.

But the Internet changed.

It’s a whole lot easier to check other sites with high-speed connections and tabbed browsing. The number of competitors has also increased with easier site creation and eCommerce capability. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon is still a juggernaut but these acquisitions (coupled with the Kindle) seem to indicate that Amazon is returning to its bread-and-butter category. Even without these acquisitions they would be leaders in the space, but with Abebooks and Shelfari they’ve made it clear the 900 pound gorilla isn’t sleeping on the job or resting on its laurels.

The Shelfari acquisition is also interesting since Amazon acquired a 40% stake in LibraryThing with the purchase of Abebooks. The two social reading sites don’t exactly play nice together. LibraryThing CEO Tim Spalding has been critical of Shelfari’s marketing tactics and had the following to say after Amazon acquired Abebooks.

I just wish it were closer to April fools. We could blog the launch of Libraryfari. (Don’t worry, that particular turn of events would happen over my dead body.)

Did Amazon want LibraryThing, but couldn’t convince Spalding to sell? Does Amazon divest itself of LibraryThing or simply retain its stake while running its own direct competitor? It’s an interesting and messy situation.

Shelfari could use the help in my opinion. Of the three social reading site, they are the laggards in both traffic and usability. The former is incontrovertible based on statistics from a number of sources including Quantcast.

The latter is obviously subjective. I’ve used all three sites to essentially syndicate my book reviews. For me Shelfari has a very confusing and non-intuitive UI. It’s sizzle over substance.

LibraryThing on the other hand is more substance over sizzle – perhaps too far in the other direction. It has incredible functionality in an almost Craigslist-like style. They’re light on encouraging viral adoption. The principle seems to be, build it and they will come.

Goodreads, the traffic leader, is an interesting hybrid. They have decent UI, encourage viral adoption and allow users to link out from their reviews. The latter makes Goodreads very attractive from an SEO perspective. Authors, publishers and bloggers can develop very relevant links from Goodreads. Even better, they allow you to control the anchor text, another SEO plus.

Why does SEO matter? First, it attracts bloggers and others who are looking for these types of links. These same people come back often and actually want the site to succeed so that the links become even more powerful, thus helping their blog or specific post gain more traction on search engines. The Goodreads open linking policy is a winner.

In the end, what’s most exciting about this news is that we’re talking about books and reading.

11 thoughts on “Amazon Buys Shelfari

  1. It is interesting to note the differences in cultures and the effects that these have on the lives of individuals. It is something to be experienced, if you can and we are fortunate that with our private and business interests that travel is a major part of what we do with our website http://www.mycover.com.au and through this activity we have had the good fortune to visit many countries and expand our knowledge. Our experience with books and history is a highly motivating force which have influenced where life has taken us and we are all the richer from this experience. We have through our travel met many new friends and by keeping in contact we have been able to gain further knowledge and understanding of what is a very complex and interesting subject. It is a credit to all who have the opportunity to travel worldwide that there is within this a group of dedicated individuals who can take books and history as the driver for events in their life.

  2. “Don’t get me wrong, Amazon is still a juggernaut but these acquisitions (coupled with the Kindle) seem to indicate that Amazon is returning to its bread-and-butter category.”

    I have wondered that too, but they get a quite a bit of sales from other goods. I am in touch with some people that make affiliate sales for Amazon – a good number of sales. And I have started affiliating as well.

    I see it is like a top 10 list, I think they are going to put much of their focus on the best sellers. Amazon is the first place I think of when I shop online for books. And a lot of other things…

  3. Ahh… books and reading. It falls into one of those either/or categories.
    There are two kinds of people in the world, those who LOVE books and reading, and those who don’t. For me reading on a screen is better that not reading at all, but FAR less satisfying than holding a book in my hot little hands.

    Doesn’t Amazon only act as a storefront for actual retailers of all kinds?

  4. I agree with Eric. I love being able to turn the pages back and forth to re-read or check what I read earlier. But the Kindle has advantages of it’s own. I like that I can download tons of free reading as well as the latest best sellers. I hope that there are always bound books around during my lifetime.

    Paul Julian

  5. @Mag “What do you think of the Amazons announcment of its new cloud player, does it have the potential to replace itunes”—In my opinion, if Amazon is determined to do something explosive about the new player…Something new that iTunes users never heard of or seen then we might just expect the latter will bite dust very soon.

  6. @Jeannie: I somehow agree with you that Amazon seems to be going back from the start once again. It seems the site is ex[experiencing some difficult times though I still believe that they could get back on track.

  7. quoted “Doesn’t Amazon only act as a storefront for actual retailers of all kinds?” actually they do, mostly those are glitched that can be fixed.

  8. I don’t they are going back to their bread and butter, they just seem to be adding extra attention to books. They have been busy buying other companies like diapers.com which doesn’t have much to do with books for example.

  9. Awesome article.
    I Believe amazon is going to rule and compete its competitors as Microsoft is doing these.Microsoft also buy skype and then other things they are discussing to compete the facebook and Apple.

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