I joined Goodreads in 2009. Prior to that, I didn’t keep a dedicated list of the books I read. I had a vague idea based on my reviews and my read shelf in my personal library (back then 90% of all my reads were print). Many of my friends tracked their reads each month and I wanted to do the same. That’s the whole reason I joined Goodreads and the whole reason I use it now.
On Friday, September 20, at around 11:00 am, Goodreads Customer Care Director, Kara, posted in the Announcements section under the Help banner: Important Note Regarding Reviews.
She states that after careful consideration, they’re revising their ToS and review policy and will be deleting reviews and shelves they feel don’t follow the “spirit of Goodreads”. These reviews/shelves are ones that review the author rather than the book. An example given of a shelf that wouldn’t be allowed is “author-is-a-jerk”.
I’m not necessarily opposed to a change like this at Goodreads. I think they made a mistake in not addressing these types of problem at their inception. Like many others, I was initially surprised at how lax they were in monitoring the content posted there when I first joined. Then I got used to it and even came to expect it. Admittedly there has been a lot of negativity coming out of Goodreads lately. Authors abusing readers, readers abusing authors, etc. The sad fact is, the drama has ramped up so much many readers don’t want to even visit the site, much less review there. I think a policy change was needed after a group of authors created a website dedicated to “outing” reviewers and posting their personal information online, including phone numbers, addresses and places frequented by their families. Something needed to change, obviously.
What I am opposed to is Goodreads deciding to delete user content without prior notice. This is where Goodreads violated my trust. They started deleting content before they made their announcement and without notifying any of the users whose content was being deleted.
**Delete content focused on author behavior. We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior. If you have questions about why a review was removed, send an email to email@example.com. (And to answer the obvious question: of course, it’s appropriate to talk about an author within the context of a review as it relates to the book. If it’s an autobiography, then clearly you might end up talking about their lives. And often it’s relevant to understand an author’s background and how it influenced the story or the setting.)
They caught a lot of flak for the policy changes but stood their ground.
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.
Again, I am not necessarily opposed to a change of this nature. But Goodreads made a major mistake when they deleted content without notice. They realized that and apologized, but stated the content could not be reinstated long enough to allow the users to export the reviews or change them.
One concern that has come up in this thread is that the content was deleted without those members first being told that our moderation policy had been revised.
In retrospect, we absolutely should have given users notice that our policies were changing before taking action on the items that were flagged. To the 21 members who were impacted: we’d like to sincerely apologize for jumping the gun on this. It was a mistake on our part, and it should not have happened.
While we misstepped by deleting them without advance warning of the policy change, the reviews still violate our review guidelines and can’t be reinstated. If we could, we’d love to retroactively export the content, but unfortunately it’s already been deleted. (Message 2704)
As the thread continues (3000+ comments and counting) Kara continued to respond to questions in a vague and somewhat condescending manner. I did not read all 59 pages (at the writing of this post), but I have grave concerns about the direction Goodreads is heading after reading some of Kara’s responses.
For example, when asked how Goodreads is deciding what shelf names are offensive, her response was:
We don’t comment publicly on individual cases, but in general, what we do is look at a shelf and see how it is used in context. In any case where we have decided to remove that shelf, we are confident that the shelf was being used in a way to review author behavior. (Message 2679)
So initially it was shelves with names like “this-author-is-a-jerk”, but when confronted with the deletion of a shelf named “hormel”, she admits they’re profiling shelves? That doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the idea that some nameless, faceless employee at Goodreads is looking at my shelves and deciding for me what I meant by naming/shelving as I did. The terms of the new policy are too broad. Users commenting in the thread are concerned about what they’re allowed to do and what they aren’t. I, too, am confused. Goodreads needs to be specific in what will and won’t be allowed.
The most glaring error on their part, however, is that there has been no official announcement about this policy change. They haven’t sent out an email to their members or made a front-page announcement. The only place this information is available is in the Help section under “announcements”. Goodreads has over 2 millions members and only just over 13,000 (at the writing of this post) have viewed that message. I don’t know about any of the other members, but this is the first time I’ve ever even visited the Help page. If I hadn’t been directed to the link by someone on Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about the changes at all. I’m afraid other members still don’t.
There are a good number of members who won’t care even if they do find out. But there are a good number who will. Why hasn’t Goodreads sent this to all its members?
Lots of people are jumping ship from Goodreads and heading over to sites like Booklikes, Libib and Library Thing. I can’t say that I blame them. What about you? Will you be staying at GR and braving the stormy season ahead or are you moving your books and reviews elsewhere?
Here are a list of alternative sites. I’ve investigated most of these and admit I haven’t found one that’s as easy to use as Goodreads, but that could partially be because I’m not familiar with them like I am Goodreads.
The Reading Room
Booklikes (this is the site most readers are currently migrating to. The system is running really slow at the moment thanks to the influx)
Most of these sites give the option of importing your Goodreads library, including all reviews. I’ll update as I discover more sites.