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Goodreads Doesn’t Think Audiobooks are Books

Audiobook concept. Headphones and books on white isolated background.

Wikipedia has an ongoing problem where its more sexist editors constantly question whether a woman is "notable" enough to merit a page on the site. This is why, for example, the female 2018 Nobel Prize winner for physics did not have a Wikipedia page when her male colleagues did.

Goodreads has a similar problem with narrow-minded fools, only this one is more absurd than offensive.

It seems one or more Goodreads Librarians has decided that, contrary to Goodreads' own rules, original audio productions do not count as books. Earlier this week they decided to follow through on their belief by purging all "Audible original" titles from Goodreads. So far they have nailed a Stephen Fry title, a storytelling series, an audiobook about Malcolm X, an interview series, and Cut and Run, a comedy with Meg Ryan in the cast.

Some of the purged titles have been outright deleted, only to be restored by other Librarians (example) while others have been put in limbo. They've had the author metadata changed so that it reads "NOT A BOOK". (This is referred to by the acronym NAB, and is done so the titles aren't automatically added again by Goodreads' system.)

If you are interested, you can find a list of NABed books here. While most of the titles on that list should be in limbo, the original BBC audio productions should not. You'll also find things like an author's autobiography (this one is an edge case, I will grant you), and even the Orson Welles' production of War of the Worlds on that list.

And audiobooks aren't the only works being rounded up in this purge; apparently someone also decided to purge the audio productions of Great Courses lectures (this was stopped before too much damage was done).

What is particularly annoying about this situation is that Goodreads has a detailed list of what belongs in their system. All of the audio productions I referenced in this post qualify under Goodreads rules.

Alas, some Goodreads librarians do not appear to be familiar with their own rules. Or, given that a similar purge happened in December, perhaps they do not agree with the rules and are enforcing their own interpretation of what counts as a "book"?

In either case, clearly someone needs to get these rogue Librarians under control.

Thanks Faith, for tipping me to Alan Teder's tweets about this problem.

Nate Hoffelder: Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

View Comments (11)

  • So are all of the Podcasts I listen to books? Should goodreads start listing all the Scripted NPR shows I listen to as books? If it isn’t in print (ebooks are still print) it isn’t a book. Sure it shares structural similarities, but so do lots of other audio works that clearly are not books.

    If these audio works are later published as books, Goodreads should return them to their lists.

    • If you would bother to go look up the rules then you would see that podcasts of books are included, but podcasts are not.

  • I guess you could call me a purist but I kinda agree with them? I don’t think reading is the same as listening. ¯\_(?)_/¯

  • Nate, Thank you for summarizing this issue so well and for researching and linking to so many examples in such a short time. We (several Goodreads users and librarians on the un-NABing side) had been making no headway on this issue since December 2019. Questions/complaints to Goodreads Customer Support were not answered (mine anyway) or, if replied to for others, the answers were full of misinformation. My appeals via flagging NAB edits were ignored. It is only today (March 13) that signs of reconciliation were made in the Librarian Group forum which asked for patience while they reviewed their policy on Audible Originals. Thank you for your advocacy on our behalf and on behalf of the silent majority of Audible audiobook readers on Goodreads (1000s of whom never even understood this behind the scenes nonsense and thought the NAB thing was some glitch as to why their books disappeared).

  • It was not really a purist vs non-purist issue.

    It was that the Goodreads Librarian manual (the relevant section is the "detailed list" that Nate links to) did not exclude these audiobooks in any way. The general Goodreads Librarian (thousands of them) would add Audible Originals in good faith that they were audiobooks just as they were marketed via Audible and/or Amazon. 1000s of other users would rate and review them again in good faith.

    Then a select cabal (maybe only a dozen or so) of NABers began to target these due to misinformation that circulated among them e.g. the Audible Originals were "behind a paywall", "available via subscription only" "were podcasts" "were not narrated from a printed book." These private reasons for targeting were not in the policy of the Librarian Manual but were rather buried in comments in threads of Librarian Group posts (which is why I can quote them). The books were NABed and disappeared from the system along with their thousands or ratings and reviews (users were not informed and would be mystified as to why their books were disappearing. Then some of them would just re-add the books all over again. It was a vicious circle, some books were NABed and reNABed multiple times.

    A group of us educated ourselves on this issue and began to fight back. Thanks to Nate's help we have actually made some headway today.

    If all audiobooks and/or Audible Originals had been explicitly excluded in the Librarian Manual, ok fine I could live with that and catalogue my reading/listening on LibraryThing (actually I do both anyway). But they were never excluded in policy and yet were being deleted regardless. That is why we were so enraged by this and started to fight it.

    Sorry for the long reply, thanks for reading if you got this far. Cheers, Alan

  • GR *does* count audiobooks as books, but not the Audible Originals that are published first in audio. And, as a person who is blind, "reading" with my eyes isn't an option so it doesn't seem particularly inclusive to exclude the format I must use in order to access a book. I take in the content with my ears rather than my eyes, but I still say I've read the book... and if I am reading that way, I say so is anyone else who reads that way... very inclusive. ;)

  • I think that the problem I have is that it is inconsistent. If you apply an NAB label for an Audible exclusive, then you should also apply an NAB label for Kindle exclusive, else you are just attacking the content based on the medium.

    I then looked for exclusive Kindle ebooks. That was easy. I found "Lying Next to Me" by Gregg Olsen and confirmed that it was not available on Kobo. I then went to Goodreads and it had an entry... and it was not an NAB entry.

  • So they are saying that people who actually need to listen to audiobooks because of a disability are not actually readers!! Not cool! If an author is telling a story and you are listening to it and retaining what you heard just as if you would have read it and can tell someone else about it then to me it's a book! It's reading!

  • It has bothered me for some time that the Audible app has no Goodreads integration. I would have thought that would have been a priority for Amazon, but it seems not.

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