Badly Behaving Social Network Breaks Own Cardinal Rule: NEVER Delete a Book

Goodreads has one rule above all others:

NEVER delete a unique book from the database. No matter what, especially if it’s been shelved and reviewed.

They broke their own rule.

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The Great Goodreads Censorship Debacle book entry was created on the 12th October 2013 by anti-censorship author Arthur Graham under pseudonym G.R. McGoodreader after he was inspired by GR user Clouds.

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Both book and pseudonym author profile have been deleted along with all 95 ratings and 78 reviews as of 22:41 BST on Oct 13. None of the people who added, rated or reviewed this book received notification or a copy of their data. None. And this is despite the plans to make the book a reality. (Feel free to chip in if you want to contribute or volunteer to help with its publication.) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of unpublished works in the database. Some of them will never be published and yet they’ve never been deleted from said database.

If the author exists and the book will exist, why was it deleted?

Sure, it’s GR’s right to delete what they like. It’s their website. But once you’ve set down rules, everyone has to live by them. Everyone. Hell, it was anticipated that they’d delete everything associated with that book, but Goodreads have completely undermined their authority by doing so. “Do as I say and not as I do” does not inspire confidence. Hypocrisy is one of the fastest ways to lose respect.

And this is not the first book to be written about Goodreads. The Goodreads Killer is still in the database.

Why should us reviewers play by the rules when those that set them, break them?

You may believe The Great Goodreads Censorship Debacle had been cheekily shelved as “true crime”, “dystopia”, and “horror”, but who could argue that this censorship isn’t dystopian? Anyone read Animal Farm?

In the past, any member who broke “never delete a book” rule automatically lost their librarian privileges and possibly their account. Who penalizes the Badly Behaving Social Network for doing the same? Depriving them of the volunteered hard work and free time used to maintain the no longer sacred book database through librarian edits and adding reviews, is the most obvious way to hurt them. If they have nothing to sell, there is no profit. Posting reviews elsewhere and leaving a link in your review space is, as far as I’m aware, still within guidelines.

You can understand why people like Elizabeth, the 19th “Most Popular Reviewer” in the world ever on GR, is no longer posting reviews. Update: She has now deleted her Goodreads account.

Protest is the only means of instituting change. As Ceridwen clearly illustrates, most Goodreaders are lurkers looking for their next read. An exceptionally small percentage contribute reviews, and smaller still is the number of thoughtful, thorough and critical reviews. That’s why this select group, less than 1% of the purported 20 million users, have earned the most followers, the most “likes”. Without reviews, GR’s usefulness comes down to cataloging and groups. They would be the only unique experience left for members to use to organise, discuss and discover new-to-them authors and the latest news in the publishing world. For now. BookLikes is working on introducing groups and other features as I type.

Personally, I’m sick and tired of Goodreads. I feel dirty even logging in. And during the last couple of days I left town to spend time with family, family who were looking to join Goodreads after buying new Paperwhites. I warned them away with full details as to why. Their reaction was the same as mine: confusion over the illogical nature of it all.

Heavy sigh.

Let’s see where we’re at:

Stage 1

First, out of the blue, without making a site-wide announcement, they deleted shelves and reviews by 21 reviewers consisting of comments about author behaviour without notifying them or providing a copy of the text, which they said was unrecoverable once deleted. Reposting them would not be allowed and if persistent, accounts would come under review for deletion.

Stage 2

After major uproar from members, they began to send notifications of deletion of reviews and shelves with a copy of the text attached. And somehow managed to return the text of reviews deleted to the first 21 members. After that change they ignored further protests from users.

Stage 3

Goodreads shamefully declared war on BookLikes, blaming them for someone stupidly including the ability to delete reviews by outside organisations and a glitch in GR’s IT network that was randomly deleting added books and reviews from accounts.

Stage 4

Deleting reviews for being “potentially off-topic” – code for “being critical of GR” and for being “non-original content” despite permission given from original reviewers.

Stage 5

The hypocrisy detailed above.

Hmm, it appears Goodreads (a.k.a. Badreads, GRAmazon, etc.) is doing its best to live up their label as a Badly Behaving Social Network. Exaggerated possibilities for making the situation worse seem ever more plausible today than they did three weeks ago.

*Access the deleted reviews HERE.

6 thoughts on “Badly Behaving Social Network Breaks Own Cardinal Rule: NEVER Delete a Book

  1. Thanks for showing the Author bio I wrote for Mr. McGoodreader. I’m sure it’s within the bounds of fair use, but for the record, you have my complete permission!

    Can Goodreads really slay the Hydra?


    1. Only if those reposting reviews delete their accounts or are deleted by staff. I hope neither happens but I don’t blame those that do the former, and latter is almost inevitable at this point.


  2. In Stage 2 perhaps you should mention that they first insisted that those reviews were deleted completely from their database and could not be returned.

    To a person who is not aware of the story Stage 1 and 2 seem to be planed, which they weren’t. There were days of ignoring our questions and outrage over their actions.


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