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.