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Amazon Buys Book-Recommendation Site Goodreads

Amazon, the online retail behemoth that has made a much-publicized foray into publishing, has just bought Goodreads, the social book-recommendation site.

"Amazon and Goodreads share a passion for reinventing reading," Russ Grandinetti, Amazon vice president for Kindle Content, said in a statement on Thursday. "Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books and, with Kindle, Amazon has helped expand reading around the world."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The statement said the deal would close in the second quarter of 2013.

On Goodreads' blog, co-founder Otis Chandler called the move exciting.

"We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them," he said.

Here's more from his post:

"I'm excited about this for three reasons:

1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.
2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.
3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture."

Chandler said one of the top priorities after the sale would be integrating Amazon's Kindle e-reader with Goodreads. The social reading site has 16 million members. It was founded in 2007 by Chandler and the woman who later became his wife, Elizabeth Khuri Chandler.

A New York Times story from earlier this year examined book websites like Goodreads and had this to say:

"Goodreads and smaller similar sites are addressing what publishers call the 'discoverability' problem: How do you guide consumers to books they might want to read? The digital age has created online retail sites that are overflowing with new books, leaving readers awash in unknown titles.

"At the same time the number of bookstores has shrunk considerably, depriving customers of the ability to browse or ask staff members for guidance.

"For a long time Amazon, the largest online bookseller, dominated the digital discovery zone through its book reviews, recommendations and displays on its home page. But Amazon has lost some trust among readers recently amid concerns that its reviews and recommendations can contain hidden agendas."

Amazon, of course, started as an online bookseller and now sells everything from cameras to banana slicers. Recently, it announced it was entering the world of original film and TV series. But it is its actions in the world of books that have raised the hackles of traditional publishers as well as its rivals.

Thursday's news comes just weeks after Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA) and Simon & Schuster joined forces to launch their own book-recommendation site, Bookish. It also follows Amazon's bid to claim new Internet domains such as ".book," ".author," and ".read" — attempts that are being fought by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, as NPR's Annalisa Quinn noted recently.

And as NPR's Lynn Neary reported last December, Amazon is among the biggest winner in the world of self-publishing. That's an area in which Goodreads already has expertise.

In a 2008 story on NPR's All Things Considered, Goodreads' Chandler talked about the site's "author" program, which was created specifically for members who write books.

"It's ending up being a really great way for authors — especially smaller, self-published authors — to build a fan base," he said.

Indeed, Hugh Howey, the sci-fi writer who self-published his best-selling book Wool through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing system and got the word out about the work through Goodreads, was one of three people to be quoted in the joint news release announcing Thursday's deal.

"I just found out my two favorite people are getting married," he said. "The best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books — To Be Read piles everywhere must be groaning in anticipation."

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