Friday, 27 September 2013

BookLikes, Goodreads, and Social Network Censorship

I have decided to remove the Goodreads widget from the right hand column of this blog, because I am going to delete my Goodreads account, and move all my books, reviews, and data to BookLikes, a rival book/networking site.

The move will mean a lot of extra work, adding covers, adding data on self-published books and books not found on conventional book seller sites, etc., but it will be worth it to be able to freely express my opinions of books to friends, and shelve/tag my books as I see fit without interference (read: censorship) from the website owners.  I have been a member of Goodreads for many years, with over 900 books listed, (virtually) met lots of fellow pagan readers, and was a librarian: editing covers; inserting book summaries; inviting fellow authors I admired to join groups and enter into discussions about their work; and adding books from obscure publishers, many of which were pagan and/or occult related, to the ever-expanding database.  I am not the only librarian to leave under protest and, this appears to have resulted in a slower response time to requests from members of Goodreads to make amendments to books, as many super-librarians - those who have made thousands of edits or more to the Goodreads database - depart.

Normally, I detach myself from spats between authors, readers, fans, and member but when Goodreads decided to edit its policy on reviews and how their membership named bookshelves without informing their membership of the same, and then began deleting personalised shelves without rhyme, reason or informing infringing members first (to provide them with time to amend or save the content), I felt it was time I moved on – being a believer in self-censorship, but little beyond that. 

I was taken aback when I learned one member’s shelf, innocuously titled "Tain", relating to Táin Bó Cúailnge was deleted without warning.  Perhaps Goodreads staff felt they were able to read the mind of the member, and came to the conclusion that the name "Tain" was a comment on the behaviour of the authors – as this is the only reason for deleting shelves according to the scant comments from Goodreads staff on the unannounced policy change?[1]  Where is the logic in deleting a shelf entitled “bad authors” but leaving another shelf, belonging to the very same member account, called “cool authors”?  

It all seems hypocritical: instigating a policy supposedly to end the targeting of authors, only to bully their own members by saying that staff know what a member is really thinking when naming a shelf “authors I want to avoid”, i.e. it’s a comment on the author’s behaviour.[2] 

Oddly, the policy change, censoring of book shelf titles, ensuing furore, and mass exodus of members occurred during Banned Book Week.

For now, it seems BookLikes are keen to hear the suggestions of their new members, and have promised to provide lots of new goodies including a private messaging system, and groups function for socialising, and will be developing apps for those of us who read on the go, but like to update our progress.

I’m pretty hopeful my celtic myth shelves will be at BookLikes for a long time to come.

[1] Like Goodreads staff, I am also a mind reader ... actually, I’m not but I’m speculating based on the many reports I’ve read from other members.
[2] It would never refer to the poor writing style, unsavoury content of the author’s books, etc.

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