Amazon is getting its spring cleaning started early this year. The retailer has quietly informed members of Shelfari that the social network is going to be shut down in March.
Acquired in 2008, Shelfari was Amazon's first book-focused social network (Amazon bought ABEbooks and gained a 40% share in LibraryThing the same year). Shelfari has long since been eclipsed by Goodreads, but Amazon kept the smaller network around because its unique structure made it useful for building a certain Kindle feature (more on this later in the post).
According to the notice, Shelfari is going to be merged into Goodreads, the social network Amazon acquired in 2013. Amazon is framing this as a good thing, but not all users agree.
Writing over at The Reader's Room blog, the blogger who scooped the news story last week said that she was pissed off and felt like she was losing a friend. The two sites were very different both in character and in membership rolls:
"I’m a member of both it and Goodreads, and they each offer different things that I like and use. What makes Shelfari special is its passionate and supportive community of serious readers. Goodreads is great but ,when it comes to book recommendations, I always turn to my Shelfari friends. Why? Because my Goodreads friend list is populated primarily by Facebook friends — many of whom read relatively little or and have vastly different tastes."
"Shelfari is superior to Goodreads when it comes to discussions. The Shelfari site had the ability to “nest” replies within discussion threads, thus allowing for more in-depth and active discussions. It has been my experience that Shelfari members are much more serious about their reading (on average) and also are more courteous and respectful. There’s a lot of shaming that occurs on Goodreads that doesn’t happen on Shelfari. For example, check out this article from Book Riot that came out last year."
She's not wrong about the differences between the two sites, and in fact all Kindle users have benefited from Shelfari's unique nature.
In addition to cataloging your book collection, Shelfari also let users fill out detailed listings for each book and write descriptions for the characters, places, references, and other parts of a book. Amazon used those listings to build the Kindle X-Ray feature which it launched in 2011 (Amazon also created a bot to write listings, but that is another story).
But Amazon hasn't done much else with Shelfari in the past four years, and now it is being shut down.