Goodreads is a wonderful website. It’s useful resource for readers, and for authors. Sadly, over the past year or so, barely a week goes by without some nasty story developing about something or other on the site.
Authors attacked reviewers; reviewers attacked authors. Bloggers started blogging about scandalous behavior on Goodreads, and news stories hit the media.
All very unpleasant, and since Amazon owns Goodreads, you can imagine the result.
Goodreads took action and started deleting egregious attacks. Naturally, there were complaints, and Goodreads responded:
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.
Was Goodreads right to take action?
In the face of the widespread negative publicity, it became inevitable. One author apparently gave up the idea of publishing her book, because of personal attacks on Goodreads.
With 20 million users on the site, some unpleasantness is inevitable. People do what they do, and the readers using the site are basically anonymous. Authors aren’t, of course.
The last thing Goodreads wants is for people to feel unsafe or uncomfortable on the website. If pointless attacks are condoned, that’s what will eventually happen.
Yes, only a tiny portion of the site’s users behave badly. News stories about it however, color perceptions, and the perception that Goodreads condones bullying would eventually destroy the site.