domingo, novembro 26, 2017

Goodreads' Censorship: G.R. Reader's Off-Topic

The closest source I have to hand "the doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute" does seem to cover some of the arguments dealing with Goodreads' censorship. I don't deny that the world's a complex place but when you get down to the nitty gritty I don't see a third space we've carved out for yourselves between relative and absolute values. Literature is not just a social pursuit - if it was, it would be a hobby. Name an education free of the teaching of it in our society? And why would it be universal to our society in that way? It is, in Donne's sense, involved with our social sphere in a way that buying small-gauge railway models is not. But if you are determined that literature is just a social pursuit then indeed, we have no further point to discuss.

Amazon are compelling us. One may wish to view it simply as they are offering each of us a choice, and that if sufficient numbers of us choose then we will have in effect voted to change our society - in ways we may not have considered, in ways we may not want, in ways that a minority of us who have never purchased anything from them are powerless to resist. They are no more compelling us than cigarette manufacturers, or the government, or drug dealers, or manufacturers of greenhouse gases, or the nazis, and so on, and so on. I see the logic of laissez-faire capitalism, even extended to the cultural and social sphere. 

I think choice is worshipped as the paramount right by the penetration of society by the free market. I think we are frequently presented with choice where our freedom to decide is foreclosed: that we are kept "poor" to choose "cheap"; that a rich man's definition of choice is not that of the poor. To a great degree the strengths of civilised society have stepped forward from a balance of rights, not the fetishisation of choice. No one smokes to die: the issue for me is that choice is engineered to facilitate the option for death, because it is financially beneficial to a few, and that generally it is noticeable that those who rate the importance of choice most high, anecdotally, often are not those paying the price.

I would curtail choice when it comes to the issue of global warming because to be the last living thing on earth and to be able to say "Well, they had a choice" is an empty a philosophy as one could wish for.
Have you checked out your local independent book shop recently? Mine is amazing, they can get most books within 24 hours of ordering, they have a loyalty card scheme that over the books purchased more than matches Amazon's discounts. Also they pay their taxes and have happy, engaged staff who are more than happy to talk about books and offer recommendations. Somehow I don't think my local shop is unique.

Goodreads offers a wide choice of buying options, including iBookstore and Kobo (and Amazon, of course). The buying options can also be geo-sensitive, linking to national or regional chains, depending on the user's location. It is a minor part of their offering but Goodreads do sell books. They offer Goodreads authors the chance to sell ebooks directly through Goodreads, at quite favourable terms. It is reasonable to ask why Amazon has found it worthwhile to buy Goodreads. Not doing anything wouldn't make sense - less sense than jeopardising Goodreads' perceived neutrality. The obvious answer is that Amazon are increasing their influence on the whole of the book value chain with a view to funnelling more sales into Amazon. Goodreads and others like it are both the top and tail of the book selling value chain. That is, they are a post-sales forum for readers to air their views. These reviews, EVEN THE CRAPPY ONES, though, can stimulate further sales - or discourage them. Should Amazon want to - and I've no evidence they plan to - they could do subtle things such as create an algorithm which gave prominence to titles with 3+ ratings in their inter-reader updates, thus focusing on titles more likely to stimulate sales. Amazon can afford to have an aggressive ten-year plan and a passive, moderate short-term plan. Certainly they are putting in place everything they need to limit future competition. As far as I was concerned I waited, but I didn't like what they were doing and because of that, I took my "business" elsewhere. And there will always be an elsewhere, no matter how small. The most immediate problem could be for the high street book stores. Best sellers don't really make much difference to Amazon's sales model. An online seller has the same investment, expenditure and return on any given book, regardless of its popularity. For a bricks and mortar bookseller, it makes a big difference. A big part of a highest seller's expense is rental, If you amortise total floor space across available shelving, you can work out the cost of parking a slow seller vs a best seller and the consequent reduction in margin.

Goodread's data sharing for recommendations is painfully superficial (I work in this IT area; I know what I'm talking about), and its attempts at positioning Amazon as a company of passionate book lovers is embarrassing. There may be Amazon employees who "love the fuck out of some books", as I've seen elsewhere quaintly claimed, but there's a vast difference between loving titles and valuing books - and the latter is not theirs to control, but the company's. 

My other reservations are personal and belong in a different discussion.

1 comentário:

Book Stooge disse...

The creators of GR showed their true colors when they sold gr to amazon. And everything since has been geared towards turning gr into a review site for selling books. Every time I go back to GR and see the changes that have occurred, every single one is either for the betterment of authors trying to hawk their books or towards selling books. Nothing about actually making the place review friendly or better for the user.

But since I'm not exactly un-biased about gr, I'll stop before I start frothing and foaming :-)