Under Amazon’s Wing, Goodreads Plans Closer Integration While Retaining Its Indie Status

Following this afternoon’s announcement that Amazon has agreed to acquire Goodreads, I had a few minutes to talk to the Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler and Amazon VP of Kindle Content Russ Grandinetti. They stayed pretty vague about the two things I was most curious about — how the deal came together, and the specifics of the planned Kindle/Goodreads integrations — but they did drop a few hints about future plans.

Chandler (pictured here with his co-founder and wife Elizabeth) said that Kindle integration has been a popular request among Goodreads users, and Grandinetti said he wants to make it “super easy” to have a social experience on the Kindle device and apps. As for what that will look like, he said, “We prefer to talk about features when we ship.”

One of the points highlighted by TechCrunch’s Drew Olanoff when he covered the news was the fact that this gives Amazon a social advantage over its e-bookselling competitors, particularly Apple. When I asked if the Amazon acquisition precludes building Goodreads integrations with non-Kindle devices, Grandinetti said the Amazon team “worked hard at Kindle to make the app work on iOS and Android,” so you’ll be able to access Goodreads features on, for example, your iPad through the Kindle app. (That doesn’t take away from Drew’s point, which was more about the iBookstore. It’s also worth noting that Amazon has acquired a social reading startup before, Shelfari, and that hasn’t led to big breakthroughs on the social front.)

I asked if Goodreads will continue to be closely integrated with Facebook, or if it’s going to be building more of a standalone social experience on Amazon. Chandler replied that Facebook “will continue to be an important part of Goodreads — our mission is to help people express themselves through what’s on their bookshelves,” and leveraging Facebook’s enormous user base makes it easier to do that.

Chandler also wrote in his blog post about the acquisition that Goodreads will “continue offering you everything that you love about the site.” For one thing, he told me that the entire Goodreads team will be staying on, and that it will remain in San Francisco. He said it will operate as an independent subsidiary similar to “how Zappos and IMDb are run.”

“We’re going to keep hiring and and growing the team,” he added.

Amazon and Goodreads have had some bumps in their relationship in the past — most notably, back in January of last year, Goodreads switched from Amazon to Ingram as its primary source of book data, because Amazon’s data “came with many restrictions.” When I brought that up today, Grandinetti said, “I don’t think any side took any pleasure at the point that [Goodreads] stopped using the API.” Now is the chance to bring Amazon data back to Goodreads and to “explore whole new areas of discovery and reading,” he said.

Chandler added that one of the downsides of moving away from Amazon was the loss of international data. With the acquisition, Goodreads will have access to that data again.

Speaking of APIs, Chandler said in another interview that Goodreads will continue to offer its own public API and to continue offering a review feed to Kobo.