Dear Goodreads, Kindly GTFO

Posted on 09/20/2013 in Discussion / 37 Comments

Dear Goodreads,\r\n\r\nFuck you.  I remember a time in my early days of reviewing books, which I did with enthusiasm and passion, where I came to your site to find books and like-minded individuals to discuss said books.  I was new and uninformed, but found your site to be a wealth of information and lots of new stories to consume and ravage.  You had listopias and giveaways and recommendations, and pretty much, I could waste hours on the site while I marked books to read and longed for new ones.  Oh yeah, and I made friends, too.\r\n\r\nAnd then shit hit the fan last year, and yet, you patted my hand and told me, “it’s okay, wee little reader, we got this,” because you knew that caving to speshul snowflake authors (you know the kind – rabid about their books receiving bad reviews, and ready to argue why the reader is wrong) would alienate your most active user base.\r\n\r\nStop the Goodreads Bullies happened.  And still, you made them pretty much irrelevant, because you did not cave to their harassment or demands.  I applauded you.\r\n\r\nBut then…then you began hiding reviews you deemed unacceptable.  And while that was a pretty shitty thing to do (because all reviews of a book, whether it is a user giving an account of why they will never buy that author’s work, or a user who is 5-starring a book yet to be released because they omgjustcan’twait, can be found legitimate), the community largely “got over it.”  I put quotations around that, because we never really did.  It still pisses us off.  We’ve just accepted and moved on.\r\n\r\n(Notably, the fangirl anticipatory ratings and reviews for books not even read yet have NOT been deleted, because of course, those are almost always five stars.  Hypocrites much?)\r\n\r\nMy parents always taught me that I was not responsible for others’ actions, but I was responsible for my own reactions to them.  I have lived by this my entire life.  When I see a person or company doing something I do not like, I will not support them if it makes me angry enough.  This goes for authors, too.  If an author has conducted themselves in a way that I find inappropriate and shameful, I should be able to make a shelf called “when Hell freezes over” or “would rather die in a fire than read” or even simply “BBA.”  I would also rather die in a fire than shop at WalMart, because I find the way they treat and pay their employees atrocious and wrong (and for the record, I’ve never been called a bully for that).  Badly behaving authors are no different and I will not support them.  That is my right, and you, dear Goodreads, only give credence and legitimacy to these poorly behaving people by punishing your most active user base.  A couple of months ago, we received congratulatory emails that we were in the top 1%; how many one-percenters’ reviews and shelves have you deleted?\r\n\r\nWhile I have not received an email from you (yet) about my reviews or shelves, it sort of chaps my ass that I can’t keep a list of people to not buy products from anymore.  Not to mention, many of these authors are people YOU have banned for inappropriate conduct and behavior.  How much sense does this make?\r\n

To clarify, we haven’t deleted any book reviews in regard to this issue. The key word here is “book”. The reviews that have been deleted – and that we don’t think have a place on Goodreads – are reviews like “the author is an a**hole and you shouldn’t read this book because of that”. In other words, they are reviews of the author’s behavior and not relevant to the book. We believe books should stand on their own merit, and it seems to us that’s the best thing for readers.

\r\nA review is subjective.  I want to make note of why I will not support that author, including not reading their books.  Like I mentioned before, I will not shop at WalMart, but based on your new site rules, I should let their prices stand on their own merit, and pay no mind to how they conduct their business.\r\n

Someone used the word censorship to describe this. This is not censorship – this is setting an appropriate tone for a community site. We encourage members to review and shelve books in a way that makes sense for them, but reviews and shelves that focus primarily on author behavior do not belong on Goodreads.

\r\nThis IS censorship.  You are telling your users how you think they should act and behave.  I understand this is your site, but stifling the voices of your most active readers is, frankly, really dumb, because they garner attention and recognition for the books you are trying to promote.  Because bad reviews and yes, BBA reviews, sell books, too.  People might never have heard of Carroll Bryant if 1) he hadn’t acted like a fool and 2) people hadn’t talked about it (the very thing it seems he was aiming for, which he admitted in a later blog post).\r\n

Some people are perhaps interpreting this as you can’t discuss the author at all. This couldn’t be further from the case. The author is a part of the book and can certainly be discussed in relation to the book. But it has to be in a way that’s relevant to the book. Again, let’s judge books based on what’s inside them.

\r\nYou are telling us not to discuss the author – UNLESS it is in a positive light.  Unless you are going to remove all of the reviews that say “OMG I THIS AUTHOR IS SO KEWL,” you’ve effectively entered what I like to call the Haven of Hypocrisy.  Because it sounds to me like you only want positive reviews and ratings that paint the author in a good light.  You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.\r\n\r\nYou used to be about the reader, and promoted a reader community.  Somewhere along the way, our paths diverged, and you stuck your head so far up your own ass, you can see daylight through your teeth.  I have to kindly ask if you are this stupid; we work for you for free.  Without us, there is no you.  No community exists without its community!    Booklikes.com and LibraryThing are evilly twisting their hands right now in glee at your major fuck-up.  Congratulations!\r\n\r\n

goodreads is stupid
“My time has come!”
\r\n\r\n 

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Jennifer became addicted to books when she randomly picked up a Sweet Valley High book in grade school. She never looked back. After blowing through the SVH and SVU series faster than her parents could put them in her hands, she began perusing her stepfather's bookshelves and reading fantasy like Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, which she still maintains is some of the best fantasy ever. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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37 responses to “Dear Goodreads, Kindly GTFO

  1. Archer

    Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog Archer Gone to shit doesn’t quite cover it. I’d all but stopped using it for anything recently but I’m not being censored when I had done nought but make a personal choice to not fund assholes.

  2. Agreed. I keep thinking of that author that I have shelved as an author I will not read because he is a convicted pedophile that has written a childrens’ book http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/400395491. I’m sure I don’t have to explain all the things wrong with that. Why should this not be relevant information? Why should I not be able to shelve this book and add a “review” of this book that lets me and others know so that they can also make an informed decision before financially supporting this author. Author’s need to be just as accountable for their public image and actions as any other person who chooses to put themselves in the public eye. I think that a lot can be ascertained about the quality of a book by the actions of the author. If the author acts like a brain addled asshat, how likely is it that they will have been competent enough to write a book that I enjoy? Ugh. I am definitely not happy with these changes and I am not at all even remotely involved in any of the recent author/reviewer ruckus. Wrong is just wrong.

  3. Awesome post. xD While I do not like some of the shelves people make (because they are really horrible and just mean to the author), I don’t care if someone has a shelf that simply says ‘due to author’ or something like that. You can not delete the bad things and keep the good, that’s just hypocrite. \nAre you going to delete your account on Goodreads now? I don’t think I will, just because it’s a way of keeping track of all my books lol. And I have met some amazing friends there.

  4. AlaskanBookie

    Thanks for the post. I didn’t even know this was happening! One of the things I really liked about GoodReads was the opinions (good and bad) posted by other bloggers .  \nThanks also for introducing me to BookLikes. \n~Squeak – The Alaskan Bookie~

  5. Jyl22075

    I couldn’t agree more! I’m currently in the process of trying out LIbraryThing and BookLikes (and going through the importing process) and hope that I can find a viable alternative. I won’t be leaving Goodreads entirely because of my groups, but I’m thinking about removing all of my reviews (I’m a top 1%er) from the site. If everyone were to pull their reviews from the site, Goodreads would have nothing of value to offer.

  6. Thank you so much for the suggestion! I have been sick of all the random stuff on GR and especially this. I’m going to be checking out Booklikes. This was an amazing post!

  7. Book Bloggery Week-in-Review (26)

    […] Jennifer was less than thrilled about the Goodreads announcement, and so she wrote them a nasty letter. […]

  8. BWithBooks

    I’ve been out of the goodreads drama loop but I can see how this is disconcerting. To clarify, I am an avid goodreads user, but I use it as a book-finding tool, not a social media place. I rarely read reviews or talk to people on it, so these changes don’t bother me but what does is the fact that IF i were to read a review, it is only there because it made their little check list of OK THINGS TO WRITE. Hmm

  9. aurian

    I am very curious if everyone has got the “you are in the top 1% reviewers”, as I got one, and have not yet posted 200 reviews there. \nI think it went all the H@ in a handbasket, when Amazon bought the site. \nMy main reason for posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is, it supports the authors I love. Do the two sites you mention, help as well? Or are those pure reader community?

  10. aurian I don’t think it’s necessarily how many reviews you have posted,  but how active you are on goodreads (liking reviews, commenting, etc).  Booklikes and librarything are more of a reader community, which used to be what goodreads was.  Kinda makes me sad.

  11. Avry15

    This is very enlightening…\nI don’t even know that Booklikes existed.. Thank you..\nI do agree that some sites censor book reviews, especially the swearing and other opinions which aren’t that pleasing to read.. I mostly encounter this with B&N..\n\nI guess I’ll  have to check my reviews on Goodreads too, then

  12. I actually like the changes, though I think I might be the only one.  I think that there should be a place for people to rant about badly behaving authors, but I don’t think it should be on Goodreads.  I like my reviews to be about the books, not the authors.\nI wish there were more safeguards for reviewers against authors, but at least the new policy isn’t as crazy as Amazon’s, which deletes negative reviews from other authors.\nIt’s not a perfect change and there will be some reviews that get deleted unfairly from the new policy, but overall, I think it’s a step in the right direction.  At least Goodreads finally understands that they need to step in and police the drama on their site.

  13. Laurens Loquacious Lit

    I’m sorry you’ve become so disillusioned with GR and felt the need to leave. I do see your point and understand where you’re coming from but I have read some of the ongoing dramas people have experienced between a reviewer and an author and in each case I have seen ways in which both parties are at fault. \nThere have been many studies, and I have seen it myself, where people are much more likely, and willing, to be hurtful and hateful on the internet rather than in person. There IS a lack of connection when your only interaction with someone is through a screen – you can’t see their emotions, they have no way of responding until after you have finished your post. People DO go further and push harder than they would in person because it’s a completely different (much safer) form of confrontation. \nSomething DOES need to be done to stop that, though I understand that most people are capable of controlling themselves and acting rationally. But BOTH sides are responsible for continuing all these arguments and publicising these disputes which only adds more people in the chaos. If people, now facing the possibility of having their reviews deleted, stop and think about what they write before they hit send, I think this will be a good thing. I hope that authors too, will use the new guidelines to be reminded that it is not always in their best interest to respond no matter how unfair or untrue they think something might be. \nTime will tell as to whether GR starts to abuse this power, but any social interaction, whether it be the playground, the street, or the internet needs some level of supervision for the times when things DO get out of hand, and some level of moderation is necessary to keep things civil. \nAt this stage I am prepared to wait out the storm to see more of an idea of what will happen over the coming months. Perhaps I too will see the need to jump ship in the future.

  14. Laurens Loquacious Lit I haven’t quite left yet,  but this has definitely made me question how I currently use GR.  I don’t see anywhere else I can go; I am not fond of the booklikes platform, soooo….I feel stuck.\nI do agree that keyboards and screens disconnect people so that anyone feels they can say whatever they want without consequences.  But I do support the idea that if we don’t like something we see on the internet, we can move to another page, or turn off our computers.  \nI’m not ultimately bothered by the moderation, but my problem is that Goodreads doesn’t explicitly say what is “bad” and what is “good” and that makes for very ambiguous ToS.  And honestly?  I want to be able to shelve an author that has behaved poorly so I know not to buy their book(s).  I don’t think that is out of line at all.

  15. Lizzys Dark Ficiton For me, it feels like that time in 3rd grade where the entire class got punished because a couple of kids were talking out loud during quiet time.  Mass-punishment.  \nI really disagree with authors being notified of new reviews.  It smacks of encouraging interaction, and while I generally like interaction (because I think authors are rockstars), it feels awkward when I’ve given a bad or even mediocre review of someone’s book.  \nAnd I personally don’t want to keep BBA lists somewhere else.  I want one repository for my book lists.  I have a hard enough time reposting my reviews to Amazon; I could never remember to keep a list of BBAs somewhere other than GR, which is exactly what I think they are banking on.

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