Discussion: Goodreads & Censorship

Since Goodreads unveiled its new terms of service update last week a storm of controversy has erupted over the book sharing site. This particular update has struck a chord with reviewers, many vowing to leave the site in favour of other book sharing websites

The main gripe many reviewers had with the update was the deletion of content that focused specifically on author behaviour rather then the book they had wrote. Goodreads deleted such content immediately, without notifying the reviewers beforehand. Although they later apologised many Goodreads users were appalled at their actions.

The reason this section of the update is so controversial is manifold. First of all, the update itself is confusing. Will all content, no matter if its positive or negative be deleted? If a review states how lovely and kind a author is, will this be deemed to be commenting on their behaviour and therefore deleted? Or is this just, as many reviewers suspect, a way to stop people outing a authors bad behaviour?

This leads to the crux of the issue: is it ok for reviewers to comment on author behaviour? The answer, for the most part, is yes. However, there are exceptions. There is a website, Stop the Goodreads Bullies which names and shames ‘bullies’ on both Amazon and Goodreads and thoroughly supports the Goodreads update.

I am completely against reviews which are bullying and abusive to authors. There is a huge difference between giving a book a negative review and personally attacking the authors and authors do not deserve to be harassed or have threats made against them. I completely understand why Goodreads decided they needed to implement this update. They want to protect authors against this kind of abuse.

However, for me, this update has gone too far. If an author responds rudely to a review that is in no way abusive or mean spirited a reviewer can no longer call that author out for that behaviour. This seems counter productive to me. I completely disagree with authors been bullied by Goodreads members but this one way street update seems to allow authors to abuse reviewers.

I love Goodreads. I love updating my shelves and I love connecting with other readers but this update concerns me greatly and, excuse the book pun, seems very Nineteen Eighty Four to me. It seems that our opinions on books only matter if they are positive. The thing that really gripes me is that if an author is rude, condescending, abusive or mean to a reviewer they SHOULD be called out on their behaviour. All abuse, no matter if you’re an author OR a reviewer should be tolerated on Goodreads. All contributors to Goodreads, whether as an author or reviewer should be valued equally. This update really feels unfair. I want to be comfortable sharing my honest thoughts on books I’ve read and this update has made me feel really uncomfortable about doing just that.

Other reviewers and bloggers have posted some great and insightful posts about this issue.

On the Goodreads Censorship from Book Revels

Goodreads Censorship and Badly Behaving Authors from The Moonlight Library

What do you think about the Goodreads update? Are you thinking of leaving Goodreads? Or are you in favour of the update?

5 thoughts on “Discussion: Goodreads & Censorship

  1. “A few months ago author Lauren Howard pulled her book because of series of abusive reviewers that negatively reviewed her book when it hadn’t even been released yet. Lauren also received rape and sodomy threats and abusive messages.”

    No, no she didn’t. Lauren Howard interpreted shelves as threats against her and freaked out over a 2 star rating (no review), which caused people to not want to read her book. Lauren Howard supporters told people who shelved her book ‘do not read’ to hang themselves or stick their hands in blenders. Here are some posts on the events:

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