Amazon to the Internet: Nom nom nom.

Anyone who gets the Publishers Lunch has received the news that Amazon acquired Shelfari. TechCrunch is reporting that Amazon dropped a cool million on the Shelf, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that three weeks ago, Amazon acquired AbeBooks, which owns a share in Shelfari’s competitor, LibraryThing.

While the nom-nom-nom-ing of the internet does make me raise a cautious brow, it also makes me wonder if Amazon is the only party with massive cash behind it that recognizes the potential power of book network marketing. Not marketing of books, but the marketing of book networks, and how powerful social networks are when founded on common reading experiences. In my research for advertising brokers, I’ve been told that book sites don’t sell, that books are hard to market, and that there isn’t as much interest in book based blogs as there is celebrity gossip, celebrity pictures with Photoshopped jism on them, and celebrity babies, handbags, diet plans, and plastic surgery. Oh, and celebrities.

Now, I happen to think these brokers are totally wrong, and while the massive big gulp that Amazon seems to be undertaking makes me wonder what they’re larger plans are for unifying these brands, it does give me a small amount of pleasure that at least Amazon does recognize that book network based marketing is an untapped market.

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  1. 1
    DS says:

    And they bought audible.com also.  I’m not sure what I think about this.  I’ve been an Amazon customer since 1995 or whenever it was they were nothing but a big list of books on the internet.  In fact they used to send presents to all of their customers—a thermos cup and a mouse pad are two I still have.  I guess it depends on what their next move is. 

    EBay’s habit of buying up good things like Half.com and Blackthorne’s Software and then ruining them comes to mind.

  2. 2
    Phyl says:

    It does bother me, though, that Amazon is eliminating the competition. Do antitrust laws apply to any of this? Probably not, but I’m ignorant about those things.

  3. 3
    MC Halliday says:

    Care to play Monopoly, anyone?

  4. 4
    Suze says:

    Yeah, I get nervous when all my purchasing options are within one company.  I don’t shop amazon, because chapters.indigo is a Canadian company (so far, but who knows what kind of deals get made that I’m not aware of?), so I spend my dollars there.

    Except, now I’ve heard they didn’t carry the controversially-covered New Yorker, so I’m disgusted with them.

    What happens when all the book sites are owned by Amazon, and they take a dislike to you (or your reviews, or your book) and bar you?  Can’t say it hasn’t happened.

  5. 5
    Keri Ford says:

    I did Shelfari a while back and have not updated it much since. But I’m picturing something in mind, links under an author’s book you’re viewing on Amazon to said author’s shelfarie page. From there, just one click to add author’s favorite books to your shopping cart. And then more links to those authors Shelfari pages and so forth. But who knows? One has to wonder why they’re buying up so much.

  6. 6
    AgTigress says:

    I like and use Abebooks so much, and I am not happy to hear that it has been swallowed up by Amazon – even though I use Amazon too.

  7. 7
    Kimberly B. says:

    I don’t use Shelfari, but I do have a Librarything account, and it bothers me that Amazon now has a share of it through Abebooks.  They’re going to own everything soon, and that really alarms me.

  8. 8

    Although I love to shop with Amazon since the 90’s, especially buying books from their “used and new” range of books by third party sellers, I also know that they are becoming very agressive by buying up or even forcing their competition out of the market. In Europe there are several court cases pending against Amazon. So I you do not like Amazon please buy your books at your local bookstore, because a) otherwise we will not have ancy choice in the future, b) is good for the local economy and c) keeps the people in the bookstore their jobs!

  9. 9

    They’re discussing it on LibraryThing right now. Tim (the founder and president) is asking users the best way to “counterprogram” against Shelfari, if Amazon tries to use it to kill LT.

  10. 10
    Virginia Shultz-Charette says:

    The only local bookstores are in the grocery storearound here. Twenty years ago there were three within 15 miles.So God bless Amazon and Ebay or I would be shit out of luck.

  11. 11
    kassiana says:

    I use and like Shelfari. I don’t care who owns it as long as they don’t fuck with my righteous indignation about sucky books. If they do, they’ve released the fucking fury.

    Also, your captsha sucks. I already entered this once, and it told me I hadn’t perfectly reproduced it when I had.

  12. 12
    DS says:

    I wish we had someone with some business expertise to answer some questions.  I think we can’t just look at Amazon as separate from what else has been going on with the big etailers.  EBay is trying to position itself as a fixed price site, hence the recent changes toward capping shipping costs in merchandise areas such as Media.  EBay also lost the Hermes and Louis Vuitton law suits in Europe which means they have to clean up their sites overall, even though they won the TIffany law suit in the US. 

    EBay Express that was supposed to take the place of Half.com when they were last planning to close HDC is being closed out.  Live auctions will no longer be offered—the ones that were done in realtime not the auction listings.  Their growth stock positioning according to one analysis I read, is in danger. 

    The general assumption is that eBay is planning to take on Amazon. 

    Amazon in the meantime is cash flush and needs to put it somewhere or presumably take a big tax hit.  They appear to be buying assets that complement their core business, i.e., media.

    When eBay was in the same position they bought things like Skype (teh shiney), Paypal (cash cow) and a host of local auction start ups which have disappeared over the years.  They also own a minority part of Craigslist, which infuriates the majority owner—lesson to learn:  buy/sell agreements are good.

    Sorry to be so long and rambling but I think that it is wrong to look at this as just Amazon taking over the world.  There are other players out there.

  13. 13
    Amy says:

    Amazon is probably buying up those social networks to sell more books—absolutely. How to combat their monopoly? I’m not certain. Buying locally is a good start. Creating a new book shopping venue is another—but will people buy from it, when they have Amazon?

  14. 14
    SonomaLass says:

    “One store to rule them all, one store to find them….”

    Yeah, I get nervous about this kind of thing.  I don’t like it when my number of options shrinks.  It seems like we’re headed towards a few big players in each area of commerce pushing out the smaller ones, and what happens when there’s no competition?  Choice is good.

    I started using Goodreads as a social networking tool, more than as a way of tracking my reading.  But now that I’ve been doing it a while, I can see that it will be useful if I keep it up.  I can’t figure out if Goodreads is owned by a bigger entity, though.

  15. 15
    Bev Stephans says:

    I closed my Amazon account after I saw the way they treated reviews and reviewers. For my regular book buying, I use Books-A-Million.  For used books, I’ve been using Abebooks, but now will have to rethink that buying option. 

    I would love to support my local bookstores, but I have a problem getting out and have to rely on the internet.  If you look hard enough, there are still book sites that aren’t owned by Amazon.

  16. 16

    I agree with everyone else that the idea of ANY monopoly forming is rather frightening (but then again, it seems to be the trend in any industry in our over-globalized market, or maybe that’s just my perception. . .). However, I do have to agree that I’m glad to see Amazon acknowledging the power of book network based marketing, because if nothing else, when the “big guys” take note of something, everyone else has to. Why should celebrities be the browsing topic of choice? (And I’m skeptical of that statement anyway.)

  17. 17

    I hate to be the only one not railing on Amazon (not that they don’t deserve it, I figured everyone else had it covered) but I just wanted to toss in on the not giving a fig about what’s happening in celebrity land. 

    Yeah, I look at the covers on the magazines in the checkout at the market.  It’s kind of hard not to when your brain is all frosted over by the consumerism fiesta that is your average big box super grocery. 

    I’m happy for those celebs who seem to have retreated from the brink of insanity and feel bad for those who are hanging from its edge.  But usually the sentiment is forgotten as soon as it’s time to load my turnips onto the conveyor belt. 

    Books on the other hand I snarf down.  Usually one per day.  And I do visit book review sites though not shelfari so much.  Yeah, I have a shelfari account but who has time for writing all those reviews when I’ve got so many books yet to read.

  18. 18
    RfP says:

    I’m not railing on Amazon.  I’m not comfortable with some of how they use their bully power, and I love indie brick-and-mortar stores, but Amazon is a damn’ useful resource and I would have a harder time finding books without them.  Nothing else replaces the amount of information on Amazon.

    Amazon is probably buying up those social networks to sell more books—absolutely.

    Yep.  Research has found that the more reviews and participation Amazon gets on its site, the more books it sells.  Adding social networking features is one way to reinforce the Amazon community and keep up participation.  (I summarized some of the research on Amazon book sales a few months ago; another researcher left a comment describing a newer study.)

  19. 19
    robinb says:

    I, too, use GoodReads.  I’ve tried Shelfari, mostly just to look at a friend’s booklist.  I didn’t find it all that happy so I’m sticking with Good Reads for now. 

    Amazon also bought out Brilliance Audio. 

    On another note, Publisher’s Marketplace rocks!

  20. 20

    That’s really interesting analysis, DS.

  21. 21
    Kate says:

    Gah. I used to like Abebooks.

    I’m lucky in that I have several good options where I am so I don’t have to rely on Amazon, but I also recognize that there are a lot of places where Amazon is your only choice outside of grocery stores. I used to live in a place like that – I get it. I just feel so damn lucky I’ve got Powell’s down the street. (Off there today when I’m done working to buy some books for my sister…and, oh yes, myself.)

    I’m gaining more and more reservations about Amazon, though, as they gobble up smaller intities. Yes, I know it’s business and that’s what they do, but the recent debacle about the reviews also makes things seem a bit questionable in my eyes. If I use Amazon anymore, I always try to buy second-hand from their third-party sellers. At least thataway I’m still (sort of) supporting the small businesses.

    (I signed up for Goodreads on the suggestion of a few blogger friends and haven’t really looked at it since.)

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