So, to my friends and followers, if you don't already know about it, please educate yourself on what has been going on behind the scenes here at Amazon-Goodreads (A-GR). Read this free ebook, which is an excellent compilation by some of the GR community of readers who have been censored. Read the fairly balanced Salon article on the subject. Google it. Then make your own decision.
I'm not one of the in-crowd on Goodreads, not one of the 21 Goodreaders that got shut down, not a recipient of the "we've deleted your review" emails, not one of the Forbes 25. But I have been here awhile (since December '08), and I do pay attention to what's going on here (I'm an active reviewer, group participant, & volunteer librarian), and what's going on here ain't good.
I've weighed in on most of the issues that have ruffled feathers (and worse) here in the past 5+ years, and watched as GR staff ignored member feedback on all the changes. Some were merely stylistic differences of opinion (eg., implementation of the UGB); some were much more serious (authors and agents equating negative reviews with bullying), but what each issue had in common was GR's lack of responsiveness to the concerns of their most invested members.
But, as long as GR remained a site dedicated to readers, I felt that the business decisions made by management were, if not choices I would have made if in their shoes, still within the realm of what I could personally support; GR was a business that I could still put my trust in, albeit with reservations.
Then last spring GR announced the sale of the business to Amazon. This was after all the insanity of the scramble to reconstruct the database (by me and other volunteer editors) in the wake of Amazon denying access to their API. I was gobsmacked by the sale announcement.
I've been a vocal critic, both on and off GR, of Amazon and their scorched-earth business practices. And I believe in voting with my dollars, so I won't give Amazon my money, which I spend to support business who espouse values similar to my own, businesses both on and offline.
That left me in a bind even before the current controversy over censorship of reviews came up. As a reader, and a consumer, I was faced with a choice last spring: continue on as an active GR member, effectively increasing Amazon's profits by donating my free labor as a volunteer librarian and adding my data to their sales machine, or leave, hopefully for greener pastures. But let's face it: last spring when this went down, there were no greener pastures; there wasn't even a barren wasteland alternative to turn to, since LibraryThing has been sucked up by Amazon as well.
So what did I do? I became paralyzed. I didn't leave, but in staying I just...stopped. Stopped posting reviews, stopped entering ARC giveaways, and stopped volunteering my time, effort, & expertise as a GR librarian. I stopped feeding my data to the Amazon-Goodreads (A-GR) cash cow. Because I understood that GR had gone from being a site for readers, to a site for consumers; I was no longer a community member, but had become a commodity.
I believed this was, at least in the short term, a reasonable solution to my problem. Not ideal, but tenable. I would just use A-GR, without allowing A-GR to use me. So over the course of my hiatus, I rarely checked in, rarely posted, & never followed the A-GR scandal news. As a result, I completely missed the bullshit concerning review deletion that went down last fall. In my absence, A-GR went from a place where I tentatively believed that a truce could be maintained between the sometimes opposing forces of community values and business values, to a place where profit motive trumps EVERYTHING.
Now I find that authors are buying positive reviews; that reviewers posting negative reviews are being removed; and that vague rules about what constitutes a review in the first place are being systematically implemented as a tool for suppressing honest dialogue. 'Off-topic' my ass; A-GR just wants to "sanitize" this site (their policy for group moderators on Amazon), to enforce an artificially "appropriate tone" (read: palatable to the income generators, aka authors), here, just like they do on Amazon.
Don't be fooled: in buying Goodreads, Amazon bought the right to sell to you, as a captive audience. Every extra click you make in order to get to your content is another opportunity to show you an advertisement. Every listopia vote you cast here is a datapoint mined by Amazon in order to better exploit the possibility of selling you something. Every book you shelve gives Amazon another shot at niche-marketing to you. And do you think that the privacy of your reading habits, once considered sacrosanct by librarians and booksellers everywhere, means anything to A-GR?
I'm not anti-capitalism; I get that trying to sell me things is the way that all social networking sites work. The difference is, there's no conflict of interest on those sites like there is here on A-GR. This site is built on user-generated content; here, as a user-member, I am both the product and the consumer of the product. Amazon bought our reviews so they could sell us the products we are reviewing. That is the crux of the problem.
But I don't want to be part of that anymore. In the same way that I do NOT buy books from Amazon, but instead buy them from independent booksellers (which are becoming harder and harder to find, I might add, as Amazon gobbles them up), in that way I am making the sad and difficult choice to stop supporting A-GR as my book site of choice. My plan is to begin migrating my data off of A-GR to a new, smaller, independent A-GR competitor, Booklikes. As always, there is a cost to standing up for what I believe in. The cost of buying my new books from an indie seller is buying fewer of them, because they cost about twice as much as they would if I bought them from Amazon. The cost of supporting an indie book site instead of A-GR is that I will lose some of my community, my friends, my history here. And let's face it, change is hard. I don't know my way around Booklikes, and I don't know if all the features I've come to love about Goodreads (NOT A-GR) will be there.
But at least, for now anyway, I'll be welcomed on Booklikes as a reader. I won't be viewed as a commodity, or a consumer, or as someone to be exploited, sanitized, and corralled to keep me from straying 'off-topic'.
Because, really, isn't the stuff that is off-topic the most interesting bit?(less)
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A departure from his standard fare of essays about his life and family, Barrel Fever is a foray into fiction, serving up short stories that look at the darker side(s) of humanity. My favorite Sedaris quote comes from this book:
“If you're looking for sympathy you'll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.”
PS - If you don't find suicide funny, you probably won't be a fan.(less)
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Lifesaving? No, not really. Timely & resonant & just what I needed at the time? Absolutely.
I read this book in 2003, at the end of the long s...moreLifesaving? No, not really. Timely & resonant & just what I needed at the time? Absolutely.
I read this book in 2003, at the end of the long separation phase of my second marriage, about one month after "we" finally tied the toe tag on our relationship. Desperate for sympathy (for my pain) and absolution (for my failure), the essays that touched on Kingsolver's divorce ("Stone Soup" and "Confessions of a Reluctant Rock Goddess") are the ones that made it into my journal at the time.
Drawing comfort from such statements as: "Like a cancer diagnosis, a dying marriage is a thing to fight, to deny, and finally, when there's no choice left, to dig in and survive", I took succor from one who had gone there before and come out the other side.
Certainly High Tide covers other territory addressed with the humor and insight I have come to expect from Kingsolver, but for me, finding her ruminations on how similar our responses to death and divorce are in this country was just the validation I needed.