So, on Friday evening I was buzzing around as usual on the internet, chatting away to some good friends discussing books and life in general. Then one of them said “Oh have you seen the latest policy change from Goodreads?” So I tootled over to the feedback portion of said site, where already users were up in arms…Here we go.
Now in principle this doesnt sound too bad…put a stop to adversarial content and internet bullying by ensuring that Goodreads remains a site for readers about books, and that people are protected (both authors and reviewers) from that minority that abuse and threaten. But if you look a little deeper there are several issues here – perhaps not so much with the policy itself, but with the implementation and the lack of specific guidelines and goals within the terms and conditions.
To my mind Goodreads made two significant errors here: Firstly they did a “dump and run” Posted the new policy on a Friday night, ensuring that all users had the weekend to get more and more worked up..which they did..with no staff members being around to answer queries. Secondly, they started arbitrarily removing shelves and reviews without giving the user time to back up their content – or the opportunity to change or update their data to bring it in line with the latest policy. No wonder users are angry….
It also appears on the surface that these changes are very much geared towards protecting authors, rather than the readers and reviewers who make Goodreads what it is. You will no longer be allowed it seems, to let other users know that a particular author is likely to give you grief if you dislike their book or give it a low rating/bad review. Now understandably shelves with the name “This author should die” or similar should not be acceptable to my mind – it is uncalled for and abusive. However Goodreads are not stopping there. Many users have lost shelves AND the reviews that went along with them that are marked such things as “Due to Author”. Now Due to Author can have many meanings. It may mean “I will read every book by this author because they are brilliant” or indeed the complete opposite. Hence the need, I feel, to be a lot more specific..because otherwise this will happen..
Poor Harry Potter!
So a huge error in judgement here from Goodreads, in this reviewer’s opinion. Of course some people are speculating as to the cause of this latest policy update and if you search around, or indeed read the comments on the thread I linked earlier you can find out what that is all about. I pass no comment, having never had a problem with ANY of the authors whose books I have reviewed – nor do I have any actual knowledge of this small group of Self Published Authors who seem to be causing a problem – therefore I cannot speak with any confidence on the subject. However….
It does feel as if Goodreads are going to lose a certain amount of credibility going forward – reviewers who choose to remain on site are already talking about putting disclaimers in their reviews to cover the fact that they have had to self censure in order to keep them in line. Who is going to trust therefore that these reviews are actually telling it how it is?
Secondly, the authors that are going to be most affected are those authors who need the most help and honesty from bloggers and reviewers – the self published author. I can’t tell you how many messages I have received, or how many comments I have read in various book loving blogs/sites/just generally on my facebook saying that the easiest way to ensure that they do not come under fire is to simply refuse to read or review any book from a self published author, but to stick with those established authors with a publishing house behind them. Therefore giving them the safety net of knowing there is a certain amount of integrity and mutual respect each way. I have to say, reading some of the horror stories its a temptation I have myself. If it wasnt for the fact that I have had dealings with many self published authors, and not ONCE had an issue, then I would indeed be reconsidering when and how to accept books offered for review….
I do think its VERY important to crack down on ACTUAL internet bullying, and I would applaud Goodreads for making a genuine effort to do so. However this particular policy does not seem to have that effect…if anything it appears to allow those very very few authors who do “stalk” reviewers around the internet, threatening to expose their personal information, carte blanche to continue…with the tacit approval of a large and busy book reviewing internet site. Am I right? Wrong? Only time will tell. And I think things need to settle down first so we can see exactly how this policy will be implemented.
I am very interested to hear the thoughts of anyone reading this post today – most especially authors and reviewers. Please leave me a comment either here or on Twitter.
Happy Reading Folks!