Discussion: The Changes to Goodreads

For those of you that don’t know, Goodreads announced a change to their terms of service the other weekend.  Essentially, they will no longer permit readers to create shelves or reviews about author behaviour.  For more information, you can see the entire thread here.

Now, in theory this is a great change because I am fully aware there are reviewers out there that make mountains out of molehills and accuse authors of bad behaviour when they’re actually the innocent party.  I get where Goodreads is seemingly coming from.  Yet I feel this policy actually hurts reviewers and allows bad authors to thrive.

You see, if a review just completely trashes the author, go ahead and delete it!  I’d be first in line to say that Goodreads needs far better moderation.  Yet if the reviewer points out in their review in a non-threatening manner something the author has done (i.e. told a reviewer to kill themselves) I don’t see anything wrong with that.  It allows the potential reader to see if they really want to give this money to this author and it can warn any potential reviewers that maybe this author isn’t the best to work with.

The thing is: how do you decide what constitutes a trashy review vs. a snarky one?  Who decides this?  And if Goodreads is doing this to protect authors from us nasty reviewers, how about banning authors like the one that told me to kill myself?  If authors are supposed to be protected, shouldn’t Goodreads work just as hard to protect reviewers?  The thing is, the abuse goes both ways.

I could do a whole article about this and likely will in the future but now I want to hear you guys weigh in: What do you think of the changes to Goodreads?  Do you think they’re for the better or worse?  Could Goodreads have done something differently in order to protect both authors and reviewers?  Please, I would love to hear your thoughts!

7 comments

  1. chettsgenie

    As far as I can tell you can still report badly behaving authors, just not comment on their behaviour in your review. I think a review should be about the book, so I think this is fine. It’s not perfect for people who want others to know when there’s been problems but I don’t think the review is an ideal place for these kinds of comments either. Blogging may be the best way to get this kind of information across.

    My suggestion would be that there should be some kind of system where each person on goodreads has a visible behaviour score that can only be altered by their librarians when someone reports bad behaviour and it’s been confirmed, that way everyone could identify problem people at a glance by their low scores – authors and reviewers alike – and decide for themselves if it will stop them from listening to that person’s reviews or buying that author’s books and if it will make them seek out the reasons behind it.

    • Carrie Slager

      Your suggestion actually makes sense! It would be nice if Goodreads would actually implement such a system, but it sure would be a lot of work. And it would definitely be hard to decide what is taking the deliberate bait of trolls and what is just plain author bad behaviour.

  2. LMcCJ

    I think they could mark Reviewers they way they mark Librarians. I’m a Goodreads Librarian so I get to mess around with the listings a bit. I had to “apply” for this designation. Couldn’t they have Reviewers apply (show them your blog) and once you are rated a legitimate Reviewer you can post whatever you want and you get some sort of mark next to your name so everyone knows?

    • Carrie Slager

      The thing about that is that not every reviewer has their own blog. I know there are several Goodreads or Amazon-exclusive reviewers that don’t have their own blogs. So I’m sure that designation would work for people like me, but I don’t think it would work for just casual reviewers on Goodreads that want to share what they thought about a book with their friends.

  3. Rebecca Vance

    I agree that the review should be about the book, however, I believe that if someone, (whether author or reviewer) has been proven to be “over the top” like the crazy person that told you to kill yourself, they should be banned from Goodreads, as either an author or a reviewer. No social media outlet should give any kind of recognition to anyone that behaves in this way. It could not be considered discrimination as long as it is listed on their author and review policies. I think that Amazon should also adopt this policy. It is amazing the reviews that slip through that are one star reviews totally ripping the author to shreds and 9 times out of 10, they haven’t even read the book! In my humble opinion, if a reader didn’t finish the book, they shouldn’t review it, period. Then, many times, they will give spoilers to further harm the author. This malicious behavior should not be allowed at all! As a reviewer myself, this hurts the reputations of all reviews when this is allowed. Amazon should use more discretionary power in which reviews it allows. As it stands, I don’t think they show any. It seems that any review is allowed. If it is a fair review, then whether it is favorable or not, it should be allowed, but not when it is evident that they didn’t read the book or their only objective is to ruin the author’s reputation. I know this isn’t about Amazon, but I felt that this tied in enough to the topic. Thanks Carrie, for such an important topic for all of us. 🙂

    • The Masquerade Crew (@MasqCrew)

      I agree with just about all of your comment except for one thing. I’ve read tons of helpful reviews from ones who did not finish the book. They tried to read it, got pretty far into it, but couldn’t make themselves finish due to some legit reason (grammar or some story mechanic like plot or characterization). A legit review like this will also clearly state that they couldn’t finish it. But this type of review is only helpful if the person has read enough of it to state things with authority.

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