Goodbye to Goodreads

“We were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless and terrible. But this much I can tell you, you ape…we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.”

Terry Pratchett

So yesterday I deleted my Goodreads account.

I pressed the scary button that says “delete account”, and the other scary button that says “YOU WILL LOSE EVERYTHING IF YOU DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT”, and then the scary window that pops up saying “Are You Sure? You Will No Longer Be A Person If You Leave Goodreads!”

I deleted two and a half years’ worth of reading, reviewing, commenting, arguing, quizzing and quote-liking. Obviously, I moved all the important stuff to Booklikes (which is awesome, by the way), but still. Two and a half years.

And I found myself wondering, in the usual panicky way which is virtually useless for decision-making, whether such drastic action was really worth it, especially since the whole Goodreads controversy is rather old news by now.

The Goodreads story is a long and tedious one, and almost impossible to tell in an unbiased fashion, but I’ll give it a go.

September 21st 2013: Goodreads announces a major policy change on a Friday afternoon on a comment thread viewed by less than 1% of the site’s alleged 20 million members (although that 1% admittedly contains most of Goodreads’ most active members). The policy change is this: reviewers are no longer to post reviews discussing author behaviour. (This, of course, opens a whole can of ethical worms which I’m not going to go into now.) Over the following weekend, Goodreads summarily deletes reviews and bookshelves contravening the new guidelines (which, remember, were not announced site-wide) with no warning. Understandably, people get annoyed about this. Particularly vocal members of the community post protest reviews, some satirical, most angry. Goodreads deletes some of these protest reviews, applying their new rules arbitrarily and inconsistently, and makes up new ones in a suspiciously ad hoc fashion: reviews are deleted for being “off-topic” and for being copies of other reviews – although the original writers agreed to those copies being made.

And so begins the Great Goodreads Migration, in which many of the most vocal members of the Goodreads community simply up sticks and leaves, for Booklikes or Leafmarks or any of the other book-reviewing sites. Others stay, but don’t post anything useful.

All of this seems like a massive deal in this little corner of the Internet, but it isn’t, really. The number of people it has affected is miniscule. There are apparently still those using Goodreads who don’t know about it. But it matters to me, because, from my point of view (and I’ve thought about it, believe me), what Goodreads did is censorship, and unfair, unjustified censorship at that.

Goodreads, it turns out, is still having problems beyond censorship. Since Amazon bought it, its vast and once-useful book database is in disarray, advertising has become notably more prominent, and bugs abound. It’s not a nice place to be any more (in so much as Internet sites can be described as places). So, yes, I do think it was worth leaving. I oppose censorship, and I oppose Amazon for a whole host of other reasons I won’t bore you with now. My clicks, my words, my reading are mine, and I choose not to give them to Goodreads, or to Amazon.

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