Goodreads v. Amazon

What difference does book-selling make for book reviews? This is the topic of a new paper accepted at the International Conference on Web and Social Media 2015 (ICWSM) co-authored by NovelTM director Andrew Piper with NovelTM student Stefan Dimitrov and collaborator Derek Ruths of the Network Dynamics Lab. Looking at 2.5 million reviews from the two platforms, the team is interested in learning more about how a particular platform impacts users’ behaviour when it comes to writing about books.

Some of the salient findings:

  • Goodreads users tend to write more reviews per person.
  • Goodreads tends to have more reviews per book than Amazon.
  • Amazon reviews tend to be longer than Goodreads’ reviews; this appears to be related to the more informal nature of Goodreads’ reviews.
  •  Amazon ratings tend to be more extreme (more 5-star and 1-star ratings) than Goodreads.
  • A comparison of the distinctive words for each platform suggests their differing orientations, the commercial aspect of Amazon and the informal aspect of Goodreads:
    • Amazon: buy, bought, will, purchased, reader, gift, pur- chase, ordered, highly, reviewers, price
    • Goodreads: goodreads, shit, interesting, pretty, memoir, bit, listened, funny, definitvely, didn’t, parts

You can read the full paper here.

This is an initial study aimed at getting some preliminary understanding of whether and how the platforms differ in the ways readers talk about books. The trio chose to focus on a single genre of “biography,” both to constrain their problem (it still yielded 21,394 books and 2.5 million reviews) and also because biography is a very coherent genre. The issue of genre labelling is one of their next steps — how do users label books and how much coherence is there between reviews and “genres”?

Read Dr. Piper’s entire blog post here.