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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of Giant Corporations Taking Over the World...

...Amazon bought Read about it in Publisher's Weekly.

Shelfari, if you've never heard of it, is what I would call the book nerds' social networking site. The site allows you to log all the books you've read, are reading, and want to read; allows you to rate and tag your books; provides a forum for discussions and discussion groups about books; and it provides you widgets for your various social pages/blogs. Please see my side bar of books for an example.

Here's the thing about Shelfari - I don't like it. The discussion forums are poorly designed and almost impossible to use or follow so I've long since given up participating in the one group I joined. The site also has annoying mouse sensitive features that pop up windows whenever your mouse rolls over a book cover. Not long ago when they introduced their "design" changes, they simply rolled out changes in the way your Shelfari shelf would appear. Do you want your shelf to appear as oak or mahogany? Who cares?!

I keep up my Shelfari account only for the widget (the one previously mentioned on the right) and also because I like keeping track of all the books I've ever read. I'd like to think that I am the target audience for Shelfari, being a book buying nerd, and yet, it simply doesn't work for me.

So in a way, there's a secret part of me that's hopeful about Amazon's purchase of Shelfari. Perhaps some actual user friendly function will be introduced to the site. Maybe there will be some useful discussion about literary things. Or perhaps the site will simply be optimized for better book hawking.

It's also notable that Amazon not long ago bought Abebooks which, according to the Publisher's Weekly article, controls 40% of Shelfari's competitor LibraryThing. I've never used LibraryThing, which might offer some improvements on some of the function failures of Shelfari, but I have no idea. Does the future hold consolidation of these two sites? An answer can't be that far off.

In the end, I think the founders of Shelfari have gotten exactly what they wanted: They built a site with just enough gloss and minimal function to build their membership and now they've sold it for what I hope, is a tidy profit. Cut and run, my friends. Cut and run.


Anonymous said...

Eeek. I knew there was something fishy going on with that site. I toolike keeping track of every book I've ever read. Also, I feel like Shelfari kept up my reading pace. Somebody sent me an invite to the other day. Perhaps I'll have to check that out instead... unless you've got the dirty skinny on that too. Hmm.

stu said...

Of course now, Amazon will be offering 'targeted special offers' based on everything you've ever read, not just what you've bought from them.