Over the past few years, authors and publishers have had a new way to connect with their most voracious readers: Goodreads, a San Francisco-based social network for book lovers. Goodreads, which has more than 16 million members, is a digital manifestation of—and perhaps a gradual replacement for—the chatty independent bookstore clerk. Members in its 20,000 online book clubs can popularize new books, make the careers of authors, and generally share their exuberance for the pastime of reading.
For publishers, one virtue of the site has been its neutrality in the battle among Amazon, Apple, and the major book publishers over e-book prices and the future of the printed world. Some commentators even believed that Goodreads was well-positioned to one day start selling books directly.