Goodreads was never an affair for me. It was a marriage. It was the social network that I visited the most, counting Facebook. I can get lost in it browsing books, reading reviews, sorting shelves, and deliberating discussions–most important. And last week, something happened.
I was merely checking my spam mailbox when I caught sight of an email from an unfamiliar name with the subject “Librarian Status: Under Review.” This is what it had to say:
It’s great that Goodreads has so many hard-working librarians, and we are happy to count you among them. But it seems you are working at cross-purposes to established policy, not to mention causing other librarians work.
Please keep in mind that to qualify as a book, an item must have been published. Goodreads Groups are not authors, and discussions in a group are not books.
If you have any further questions, feel free to come discuss them in the Librarians Group, which I’m happy to see you are a member of.
Goodreads Librarians Group Mod
So I responded to the invitation to discuss the issue at the Librarians Group. And this is what I had to say:
Our Goodreads-based book club privately published two books, which are collections of short stories written by some of our active members. We’ve added these books under good faith for our respective shelves. Since these items are published, they count as books, right?
This moderator who emailed me argues that discussions in a group are not books. I agree. However, our two publications are not discussions. They are creative works of our members, works which are inspired by books that we’ve discussed. No, they are not reviews. I’ve browsed the books last night and they may fall under the category creative nonfiction.
I also verified the guidelines when adding a new book. It is stated there that books generally have ISBN numbers (but don’t have to), and are usually published. Periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and comics are not books. However, a volume of comics or articles or a graphic novel is considered a book.
Our book club’s publications do not have ISBNs. They don’t have to, that’s clearly stated, and they are definitely not periodicals. So why were our books deleted from the Goodreads database? Is it because they are not popular? Or it because of the author name that we chose?
Here’s another thing. We used our group’s name as the author name because those publications are results of our collaborative efforts. The Paris Review is listed as an author, so I don’t see any reason our group’s name cannot be used. Reality check: The Paris Review is a well-known institution. We are nothing like it, and we respect that. But in a technical point of view, using our group’s name as the author name is not a violation of any policy.
I posted this, a longer version of it, at the Librarians Group. A few minutes later, this topic was deleted. I reposted the whole thing (I had a backup copy) and this time, I took screenshots. There was no system error or anything. The topic was deliberately deleted, twice. A few minutes later, I got an email from the same moderator. It advised me to email their support group because the Librarians Group is not an appropriate place for such discussions. My head nearly blew up with vexation. What’s with that deleting of books and authors, and inviting you to discuss issues, and deleting your topics, and telling you to redirect your concerns elsewhere?
Before I read this last email, I sent private messages to the other moderators of the group who are also Goodreads administrators, and I asked about why my topic was deleted. One of them replied, telling me to email the support group instead because it’s inappropriate to discuss the matter through private messages. Whoops, my mistake, I guess.
So there you go, with two moderators saying the same thing, I emailed the support group. I only intended to raise a concern about books being deleted. The issue expanded to include the behavior of that moderator, who by the way still trickled in a last email. This email said that discussions about general policies are perfectly fine in the group. Debating decisions already made and specifics of emails sent to me would not be.
Whatever. Email support and wait. And wait. Nada. Zilch. It has been a week. The support group is usually responsive based from previous experience. What happened?
In a rush of impulse, I decided to take a stand against the Goodreads bureaucrats. I decided that I don’t want Goodreads to use my book data anymore for whatever reasons. I deleted all my books and moved on to Leafmarks.
Actually, I don’t think this is merely an impulse because I’ve given this thought for two nights. And I could have just deleted my account, right? I can’t. My book club lives in Goodreads City. The Goodreads community is the best feature that it has. The best feature is powered by the people who have a passion for books, and this is what can happen to those people.
There could be some self-serving purpose or at the very least vanity when we added our group’s books to the Goodreads database. But do they cost terabytes of disk space? They are only two lines in a database filled with dirty data. There is no policy against it. If that’s the case, we are free to do it so long as it doesn’t harm anything, so long as it uplifts a group of readers’ pride and spirit.
The province of Leafmarks doesn’t feature groups yet, so it can get quite lonely. I’m still in a state of shock with the move, I guess. But I’m getting the drift of it. Their database is not as refined as that of Goodreads. I think I’d like to help them make it better. I applied to be a Leafmarks Librarian and within 24 hours, I had a Leaf for it.
I hope this is the start of something great, of a real marriage between a reader and a bookish social network.