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.

14 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. Melanie Melanson12 November, 2020

        My thinking is that they are going to roll out discussion features in 2021 AND are angling to tackle FB Groups + Goodreads. They’ve seen little to no benefit with having Goodreads a part of their Amazon family of brands, they’ve taken away support for the Goodreads app via the Kindle Fire and have not updated Goodreads since… Ever??? I don’t see Goodreads surviving more than another 3 years at the most and Facebook has been at odds with Amazon for a while. Since Amazon doesn’t allow its affiliates to promote links via FB CPC ads it makes sense that they would be trying to take down the behemoth as one of their primary targets. Just my take on it.

        Reply
        1. Tucker Lieberman27 December, 2020

          As of today (27 December), the Amazon Book Clubs FAQ still doesn’t mention any discussion or messaging features. It says you can “join a club” and propose books for the club to read. The club’s creator/admin will select a book.

          I assume Amazon will send a marketing email with the selected book title to every Amazon customer who is part of the club.

          However, there appears to be no feature for the club’s creator/admin to send out information about a “meeting time” to discuss the book (say, in person or via videoconference or an outside discussion board) nor is there a discussion platform on Amazon’s site. I don’t believe there is a messaging system, nor will the club members’ contact info be given to the club’s creator/admin. I assume all the advertising comes directly from Amazon, and the advertising must relate only to buying the book, not discussing the book or otherwise building real human community.

          If Amazon plans to improve this, their FAQ doesn’t yet hint at it.

          At this point, by “joining a club,” I believe you’re just signing up to receive marketing emails from Amazon with titles that a randomly self-appointed “book club administrator” selected for you.

          Goodreads has a discussion and messaging platform. Amazon could fix it up and modernize it if they wanted to.

          Reply
        2. MH18 March, 2021

          They own good reads.

          Reply
    2. Eric12 November, 2020

      It’s just a list of books. It’s not really a “book club” in the traditional sense.

      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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  5. […] the Swedish core is closing down at the end of this month. Meanwhile, Amazon are expanding again. A new feature, Book Clubs, is in beta. It is designed to help people get together and discuss books. Nate’s account of their platform, […]

    Reply
  6. Tiffany12 November, 2020

    I’m so mad I read Red Rising, all excited to go on the book club and find out what everyone thought about this ridiculous book. Then there was no discussion forum even after the “read-by” date! It seems like just a way to promote and sell books, and this book was a total waste of my time.

    Reply
  7. Michael29 December, 2020

    I joined and saw there was no discussion. I couldn’t quite believe this at first. That Amazon would start a book club with no way for members to interact. It’s a complete waste of time. And kind of insulting.

    Reply
  8. Gary Harding26 March, 2021

    I have to admit I was excited about Amazon’s book club concept, and I just started one yesterday, but now I see there is no discussion board or way to interact about the books so why bother at all? It’s more like a “let’s all decide to buy the same book club,” but why do you need a club for that, and what use is that when you can just send a link to a book page to others?

    Reply

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