I finished reading Off Topic: The Story of an Internet Revolt last night and hastily wiped away the tears that were streaming down my face, texted my husband from upstairs to ask if he was ready to watch SoA, then went out to sit on my porch in the late night autumn chill to chain smoke and reflect.
Let me get this stuff out of the way first:
I got this book for free here. The charts I made that I talked about here are included. This book is a collection of posts made on goodreads and elsewhere regarding the recent review/shelf deletions, and you can buy it at Lulu for 99¢, but it’s available under a Creative Commons sharing license, which is why you don’t have to pay for it if you choose not to. All of the essays/reviews are well written. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, some you might just skim – I don’t know. There were some typos, but nothing that distracted me from my reading in any significant manner. I “know” a few of the authors whose writing appears here, but most of them are internet strangers or people I’m only peripherally aware of. If you’re a goodreads member, you should read this book.
/on topic portion of this “review.”
I’ve been a goodreads member since January of ’11, and I pretty much only lurked for the first 10 months. I was in the process of being burned by another website where I’d made countless friends (Heather D included) and was kind of unwilling to give my heart away again.
I still remember the review, though, that made me decide to give goodreads a chance. I was searching for “giant killer unicorns” (don’t even remember why, but it was part of a conversation on subjot, I remember that much) and Joel’s review was the FIRST HIT. I read the “review” and laughed and laughed. Then I did that thing you’re never supposed to do on the internet. I read the comments. And knew almost immediately that these people? Some of these people were MY people, they just didn’t know it yet.
So I started to become more active and in the two years since I started actually participating, I’ve written almost 400 reviews (most of them off-topic). I’ve commented on countless other reviews (most of those could also be considered off-topic). I’ve made friends that I now talk to in other places, but most of them are (or were) goodreads-centric. And that was perfect. Goodreads was one of the first things I’d check on my phone when I got up in the morning, and one of the last things I’d check at night before going to bed.
I liked – no, I LOVED having a place I could go where nearly every single person I encountered was as passionate about reading as I am. Not just books (cos I’m fucking sick of the paper vs digital debates, so just shut your faces people that think ereaders are of the devil), but READING. The people I met there were like me. A day without reading was unimaginable and most of them were just as hard up for their next fix as I was. When they weren’t reading, they wanted to talk about reading. They wanted to share their feelings on what they’d just read and they wanted ME to talk about it with them.
Heady stuff. A whole website devoted to people that liked to talk about reading just as much as I do?
Well, that was pretty much heaven.
Over the last few weeks, though – my feed has become a tumbleweed infested Old West Ghost Town, without even the benefit of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
The people whose words I’ve come to rely on have been leaving. They’ve been deleting their reviews and they’ve stopped updating. The conversation centers around what goodreads has become. It’s not about the joy of reading anymore. It’s no longer a happy place. I don’t check anything as much, and I’ve pretty much stopped crossposting my reviews.
Because what’s the point? You may say that the majority of the people that use the site weren’t affected by the recent deletions and censorship, but I’ll tell you that the people who matter the most were. Or they realize that they could be next and need to get out before they’re the ones wearing the targets.
The people who provided the best, most engaging content are gone or leaving. The people who were the WHOLE REASON I WAS THERE are leaving or gone.
What’s the point? No, really, goodreads – what’s the point?
I’m finishing out my 2013 challenge (because I’m too tired, depressed, busy and lazy to worry about adding all of those books somewhere else) and then I’m gone, too. When the entire reason I looked forward to visiting your site is gone, there’s no reason for me to stick around. So I may be just another faceless person to you and your new Amazon overlords, but if my friends aren’t here, there’s no reason for me to be either.
I’ll miss you, goodreads. You used to be amazing.