A social media platform dedicated to booklovers, a community with a reputation of being introverts, might seem like an oxymoron… Until you factor in the obsessive hoarding tendencies bibliophiles tend to exhibit.
By tapping into the collective popularity of books, Goodreads slowly but steadily built a devoted following in the multiple millions. Users are able to review books, discuss novels in groups, see what their friends are reading, compete in reading challenges, receive book recommendations and create virtual bookshelves.
Before developing @Goodreads, app engineer Otis Chandler had previously built social networking and dating site Tickle.com. He launched Goodreads in December 2006 with the help of his wife, co-founder Elizabeth Chandler. They personally sent out the link to 800 people, and from there their network blossomed. They integrated the app to be used with other social media platforms, but word-of-mouth was always their strongest marketing tool. Reading may be a solitary activity, but discussing thought-provoking works and new ideas sparked is a community affair.
Within a year, Goodreads had about 100,000 users, signaling an angel round of investing totaling just under $1 million. Another year later in 2009, a Series A round of funding raised $2 million. Why so much paper for an under the radar bookworm community?
Goodreads has proven to be an incredible marketing tool for the publishing industry. Most of the company’s profit comes through advertising, both ads on the app and email blasts. Publishers and authors also use the user data to track their own marketing campaigns by seeing who is shelving their new releases on their To-Read shelves and who is clicking through and buying.
Now that the community has grown to over 20 million users, Goodreads is a go-to source for book data. This spike in usership is owed to Amazon’s acquisition of the platform in 2013.
With Goodreads and Amazon combining forces, these two networks empower self-publishing authors and help create indie success stories by addressing the ‘discoverability problem.’ Goodreads moved its offices from Santa Monica to San Francisco to be in an Amazon building, and continues to grow at a rapid pace thanks to the resources of the e-commerce giant.
A “social cataloging” website and app was exactly what the modern book community needed. Users can silently brag about how quickly they read, show off their intellectual shelves, and discuss their thoughts on popular reads. Goodreads also created a reading challenge to encourage users to set and meet reading goals at the beginning of every year. The Goodreads Choice Awards is a yearly voting within the community for the users top choice of newly released novels in their given categories.