What Goodreads will do with its new millions

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Last week the books-and-social-networking site Goodreads announced it had received $2 million in venture capital, led by start-up-friendly True Ventures. This seems to position Goodreads as a leader in the field: Another book-sharing site, Shelfari, was acquired by in 2008. A third, LibraryThing, which also remains independent, has just 900,000 members to Goodreads’ 2.5 million.

We tracked down Goodreads founder Otis Chandler (who, by the way, is not the former publisher of the L.A. Times; he’s his grandson). He answered Carolyn Kellogg’s questions about what the new moolah will mean for his company.


Jacket Copy: Goodreads just secured $2 million in venture capital funding. Is this your first big check?

Otis Chandler: The site was founded in December 2006. In December 2007 we raised an angel round, which has lasted us until now. We like December apparently!

JC: What things that are currently on Goodreads that you plan to enhance with the funding?

OC: Our first step was to pull the trigger on new servers to make the site faster and help us scale. We will be growing the team by three, four more people, mostly on the engineering side. In terms of the product, we will be using it to improve and enhance many features, including our brand-new ‘bookswap,’ our self-serve advertising product which is designed for authors and publishers to promote their work to Goodreads members. We will also be launching some new features, such as book and author quizzes, better e-book support, and improved cataloging tools.

JC: What cities have the most Goodreads members?

OC: In order: New York, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Bekasi [Indonesia], Portland [Ore.], Sydney, Seattle.

JC: Where have the most successful Goodreads offline meet-ups taken place? What do you think made them special?

OC: Our focus has been to facilitate members to interact and meet up on their own. Goodreads features over 20,000 groups and book clubs where members are reading and discussing books together. Many of these groups do meet IRL (‘in real life,’ as some call it), and many are only available virtually. Goodreads has also organized four physical book swaps in Southern California, which have all been very successful. We plan to organize more, but our focus is on improving our online groups, and enabling members to operate book clubs through Goodreads that may or may not meet up in real life.

JC: Facebook has been wrestling with privacy concerns. Do any of those apply to Goodreads and your membership?

OC: Depends which issue you mean. Facebook’s latest privacy change has really been a push to make more of their content publicly viewable by default, primarily their status updates. Goodreads has always had reasonable defaults and comprehensive privacy tools for our members to control what the world sees versus what their friends see -- and we have had very few complaints.

JC: Has Goodreads announced its best-of-2009 lists yet?

OC: For 2009 we are thrilled to be hosting the first-ever Goodreads Choice Awards [free membership required]. We looked at the most popular books on Goodreads in 2009 and used our reading statistics to compile lists in several categories, ranging from fiction and nonfiction to young adult series and graphic novels. Voting is open to all Goodreads members until Dec. 31, 2009. Winners will be announced in our January 2010 newsletter.

-- Carolyn Kellogg