Amazon Launches “Book Clubs” in Beta, But Forgets to Add Any Discussion Features

I’ve just learned about an Amazon feature that, while not exactly new, is still relatively unknown and has not been officially launched.

I was browsing Dale Robert’s Facebook group today when someone mentioned Amazon Book Clubs. Kevin Maguire posted this screensnap while mentioning to him that the feature was new to him.

 

A little bit of Google sleuthing lead me to the relevant page on Amazon, but otherwise turned up little useful info (no one has reported on it yet). According to the FAQ linked at the bottom of the page, ABC is “a great way to help bring your discussions to life. Easily coordinate book selection, get notifications, and more, all in one place. Oh yeah, it’s also free. Because at Amazon, reading and discussing books is available for everyone.” (The self-congratulatory tone makes me want to vomit, too.)

There are apparently several thousand book clubs on the platform already; most  are small and have only a handful of members, but the largest “featured” club had several thousand members.

It is hard to say just how many users have joined clubs, or how many clubs there are; there’s no single list, leaving you to search for clubs based on keywords. This is more or less privacy through obscurity, which sounds nice at first but will probably make it harder for potential members to find clubs they like.

On the plus side, Amazon does let you launch “private” book clubs where activity is shielded from public view, and is only visible to a club’s members and Amazon’s algorithms.

You have to be approved by an admin before you can join a private club, while a public club is open to all. That is quite a different definition of public and private from what FB uses. for its groups.

Speaking of which, its pretty clear that Amazon’s goal is to supplant FB groups as a discussion forum, and I hope they succeed. While I like the people I have met in FB groups, the platform itself is unpleasant to use. It was designed with data collection in mind, not user comfort, and Amazon could not possibly build something worse.

Edit: I have to take that back. A reader pointed out that the “book clubs” lack any sort of discussion or other group features. (I missed this at first because I simply assumed that something called a book club would have club-like features.) Since there’s no community or discussion features, I really do not know why Amazon launched this.

So what do you think of the new book clubs? Have you tried them yet?

How do they compare to the user groups on Goodreads?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by 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.

6 Comments

  1. JP11 September, 2020

    Where is the actual discussion? I joined one but it’s just a list of books?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder11 September, 2020

      Do you know what? I don’t know. I could not find it either.

      Reply
      1. James Viscosi12 September, 2020

        Sounds like the perfect book club for lurkers!

        Reply
  2. Erin13 September, 2020

    Looks fun but I agree, I don’t see any actual activity on the book club pages other than current and previous books chosen.

    Reply
  3. Mark Watkins14 September, 2020

    They may simply be testing whether there is large (for them) market demand for a Book Club solution. TripAdvisor used to do this, they’d simply put up a button with a test name, with no functionality, and see how many people clicked it, to gauge user interest. This is a little more involved than that, but discussion environments are actually pretty complicated to build. (There are some books-specific book club apps that have robust (and private!) discussion environments, such as Glose and Bookship (I am the creator of Bookship).

    If it gets traction, they add more features. If not, they quietly kill it.

    I can’t imagine the Goodreads folks are too happy about this :). They should be the book club solution since they are owned by Amazon. But then Amazon has pretty much left Goodreads for dead for a long time now…

    Reply
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