Amazon gobbles up Shelfari book-sharing biz

image This is the TeleBlog, right? Not the AmaBlog? But I haven’t any choice.

A third Amazon item this morning, groan, groan, is that Jeff Bezos and friends are buying the Shelfari book-sharing business. And Shelfari’s innovative interface appears to be a major reason, according to Read-Write Web.

Already Amazon owns Abe Books, which in turn has a 40 percent stake in LibraryThing—which depicts Shelfari as less high-brow than LT is.

More from Read-Write:

LibraryThing is clearly worried about today’s acquisition. In the above-linked piece, founder and lead developer of LibraryThing Tim Spalding notes that "Amazon can make Shelfari the choice of casual book-lovers who see a button on Amazon.com and click on it." LibraryThing hopes to compete with this by being a superior service. However it’s very difficult to compete against Amazon’s bulk.

OK, gang? What do you think about the implications here? Brow-level debate aside, isn’t it rather interesting that one company, Amazon, will preside over so imagemuch social discourse about books? I know some would argue, "Who cares? We’re talking about many-to-many discussions. Will Amazon be able to control everything?" But remember, Amazon is the one who makes the rules under which discussion takes place. And it has the resources to make discussions happen on the level of many brows. Someday Amazon could well introduce some pretty sophisticated filtering schemes,

What’s more, what happens if Amazon someday tries to link social capabilities with specific hardware devices—directly or through possible licensing arrangements such as the one that Michael Arrington is speculating about?

More groans: I’m developing a possible fourth Amazon item for use today. Bear with me, gang. The Kindle has many fine points, and I’ll probably be an owner soon since the TeleBlog has its share of wonderful people who love their K machines. But, yes, I’d rather be writing about open linux gizmos reading DRMless ePub. May Amazon join the ePub ranks soon!

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5 Comments on Amazon gobbles up Shelfari book-sharing biz

  1. This Amazon news totally creeps me out. I like LibraryThing and hope it survives. I don’t want Amazon deciding what gets published and I don’t want them keeping tabs on the contents of my library.

  2. Open Linux gizmos! Try telling the reading public what those are and how they work. I certainly don’t know. I’m pretty good at this stuff and I have no idea what the people who own Nokia tablets are talking about in their forums. FBReader, a small project done by one guy and that requires a fair amount to technical expertise to figure out how to load it and use it, doesn’t advance ebooks. As a matter of fact it probably is bad for ebooks because the whole model is not user friendly. It just convinces people that ebooks are only for techies. Compiling kernels indeed! That’s one reason why I’m positive that the Google Android experiment will fail. (See this incredible article about Android by Daniel Eran Dilger of Roughly Drafted Magazine. He says, in part: “While Android may well eat into Microsoft’s Windows Mobile business by stealing away its hardware makers, it seems unlikely that Android will ever serve as more than free alternative to Windows Mobile in a market where Windows Mobile is increasingly irrelevant. Android may have the dubious distinction of swallowing Microsoft’s mobile business the same way Microsoft ate up the Palm OS, but even if it accomplishes that goal, Google will likely find itself unsustainably hungry immediately afterward. It will also find itself swimming in a shark tank of hungry rivals, including Nokia’s Symbian, RIM’s BlackBerry, and Apple’s iPhone.” Here’s the url: http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2008/08/25/will-googles-android-play-dos-to-apples-iphone/

    If ereading is to catch on it must be simple and accessible to the average person. Amazon and Sony are the only two companies in town who have any hope of achieving this, and I suspect even the Sony model of tying the machine to a store on your computer is too complicated for most. We should be talking about what will make the average person pick up an ebook reader, not what the average techie will use.

  3. I don’t understand why people think consumers (ie everyone who buys products aka everyone) don’t have the mental capacity to decide what products they like and will be best for them and what companies are best for them to support. Personally, I don’t use LibraryThing and I’ve never even heard of Shelfari. Cataloging my books online is a chore for me, not a hobby. I imagine most people get enough recommendations for reading material from people they know, especially on sites like Facebook where they already have so much of their personal information and likes and dislikes listed. So Amazon buys some website with a comparatively small user base. Oh noes! What are people afraid of? That Amazon might turn it into a more user friendly and feature rich service that their customers will not only find easy to use but very useful? My god, we could have a customer satisfaction crisis on our hands! Of course, if you’re unhappy with the service or you don’t like Amazon, don’t buy from them. Most people just don’t care, though, and prefer to offer their time and money to the company that does the best job with the best service. Most often, in the arena of purchasing online, Amazon wins. There’s a lot of Amazon bashing that goes on because it has become a big, successful company and Jeff Bezos treats his company as private property and assumes he can do what he wants with it (wait, he’s still based out of America, right?). But Jeff Bezos is not Hitler and will never be in a position to try to take over the world or commit genocide (not that he would want to–that would just be bad business). The thing that should cheer you up to think about, though, is that no company reins supreme forever in a free economy so one day you will have a new large company that dethrones Amazon to vilify and direct your loathing and disgust towards. I can feel the excited anticipation from here.

  4. I agree with most of the points that Paul raises, but don’t think that open Linux platforms are to blame. The root of the problem lies in the fact that no one has yet implemented a server platform for Linux-based devices that integrates distribution and installation the way Amazon and Apple have.

    I share Paul’s frustration with FBReader. I’d like to install it on my iLiad, but as Paul points out the installation process is so onerous that it just isn’t worth the effort. I love my iLiad, but I’m extremely disappointed that iRex hasn’t embraced some of the open source applications that have been developed for it and created something akin to Apple’s App Store. I can upgrade my iLiad’s system software wirelessly with the click of a button; I’d like to have a facility supported by iRex with which I could install third party apps with similar ease.

    The popular trend these days is to emulate the success of the iTunes Store, i.e. ensure customer lock-in by controlling both the platform and the channel. Amazon, by virtue of its established reputation in other areas, is well on its way to succeeding in this with regard to e-books. It seems to me that the best bet for Kindle competitors would be a collaborative venture built on open platforms and formats (Linux and ePub seem like a logical place to start) designed to provide ease of use on a par with the iPhone and the Kindle. None of them has the clout to go it alone, and I fear that if they fail to do so together they are likely join Nuvomedia and RCA as mere footnotes in the history of e-books.

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