Good Reads, Amazon & ALA

With the recent announcement of Amazon purchasing Good Reads, I’ve really begun thinking about vendor control in libraries, and the same vendor control over patron reading habits.  As my dear friend Leah White said

I worry about the collection of reader data, when Amazon already collects so much from the public. Amazon has no reason to keep any of our reading information private from any institution requesting it, and we know for a fact that they use this collected data in many ways – probably many that I cannot even imagine.

Not only will this purchase impact reader’s privacy, and how we offer reader’s advisory, but it will impact the full reading ecosystem.  Amazon is slowly becoming a monopoly over all things reading.  Amazon now controls publishing, marketing, distribution and reviews.  They single-handedly have the power to make or break a book.  This power is not in the best interest of the country.

What really bothers me is the lack of leadership to address these issues.  Who am I really pissed with? ALA.  Yes, I’m pissed with the American Library Association.  Why, you might ask, am I pissed off with ALA, because ALA has the economy of scale, the resources, and the ethically and fiduciary responsibility to step up and create a new version of Good Reads.  ALA is supposed to ensure the intellectual freedom and the right to read that accompany the ability to have checks and balances in the reading ecosystem.  But we sit idly by as publishers crush us in eBooks, awful vendors continue to provide less than adequate products, and the entire book business is continually compressed into the hands of a few MAJOR players.

I don’t understand why I pay dues to “organization that advocates” without advocating, “promotes diversity” without any substantially change in the diversity of the profession, advocates for “funding and policies that support public libraries” as our funding continues to decline, “actively defends the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely” as those rights are slowly eroded through court cases and monopolization, or many of the other key action areas that ALA touts but does little to accomplish.

Don’t misunderstand me; I think ALA does some great stuff.  Moreover, I think many of the librarians who are affiliated with ALA work hard for libraries.  But I expect more of you ALA.  Why is it that the NAR (National Association of Realtors), AMA (American Medical Associate), and other professional associations have national market campaigns, and even produce TV and radio spots, but you do not?  Why is it that the AMA and NAR produce the technologically tools that their professionals and clients use?

In the end, I think that ALA can do a lot more to defend and promote public libraries.  I think the ALA can work harder to improve services for library users.  I think the ALA can work to truly defend intellectual freedom, the right to read, and the importance of having checks and balances in the publication and distribution of materials model.



Filed under advocacy, vendors

4 responses to “Good Reads, Amazon & ALA

  1. As a non-librarian ‘librarian’ no comment on ALA, but I understand your vent. One note on Goodreads – there was buzz months ago about it teaming up with Worldcat…something tells me Amazon will not be a big supporter of such a non-profit, library focused idea ~

  2. While I think that ALA is beginning to head in the right direction in terms of leadership, I still think that ALA (along with other professional library organizations) is still not ready to move forward in a radical way that challenges its traditional role. Sidebar on the issue of diversity in the profession (which you know is my area of interest), I find that the biggest obstacle we face is admitting that we have a diversity problem. Many people can’t see it, because our professional tenets give us a false sense of being equal, fair and unbiased so we often are oblivious to the need for greater diversity and culture competence in the profession.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s