The fact of Goodreads being bought by Amazon right around the time Bookish launched does provide a pretty good opportunity for making comparisons. If you spend a little time on the latter, you do get an interesting idea of what the people in charge of mainstream publishing seem to think of their customers. For instance, this is the lead article at Bookish as I write this post. So, basically, books exist to be an adjunct to popular TV shows.
You can hate Amazon for its business practices if you want, but the fact is that it’s shown a lot more interest in giving people who love to read books what they want in terms of content and community around literature. It has created a lot of the infrastructure that is now essential to the practice of publishing and buying books in the 21st century. Being able to do that required an ability to look beyond what was specifically within the company’s own interests and to have an interest in creating genuinely new things of value that people other than Amazon might want to use and be able to profit from. That, plus ruthless business practices and maniacal attention to logistics, is why it’s running away with the pie.
Goodreads was launched to encourage readers to show up and be bookish. The community formed around them.
Bookish, on the other hand, was launched in order to provide Hachette, S&S, and Penguin with “direct digital customer relationships”. The publishers got to build it from the ground up, and the manner in which it functions says a lot about the type of ”direct digital customer relationships” these publishers want to have.
The thing is, they don’t actually want a relationship – not the relationship that James McQuivey (and I) think that publishers could benefit from.
The word relationship implies that there is more than one party speaking, and that is not the point of Bookish. This site exists to be little more than yet another marketing channel for publishers.
I have spent time on Bookish since it launched (including an hour today), and I frankly cannot see how I (as a user) can contribute. I can write a review, yes, but I can’t build a virtual bookshelf of books I own, I can’t communicate with other users, nor can I do anything that would benefit me and not the publishers.
Most importantly, I cannot even leave a comment on the blog posts on Bookish. That, folks, is an example of just how completely the communication flows in exactly one direction.