April 19, 2018

Amazon To Acquire Shelfari, May Compete with LibraryThing

  • Amazon to acquire social cataloging site Shelfari
  • Previous acquisition plans for AbeBooks will give Amazon minority stake in LibraryThing
  • New strategies for the future of social cataloging sites discussed

Earlier this month Amazon announced that it would purchase AbeBooks, the used and rare book seller, and in doing so would acquire that company’s 40% minority stake in social cataloging site LibraryThing. Now, for its second acquisition in August, the behemoth online retailer aims to acquire LibraryThing’s direct competitor, Shelfari, for an undisclosed amount, according to the August 25 Seattle Post Intelligencer. (Amazon already had ties to Shelfari, having invested $1 million in the the company back in February 2007.)

Both Shelfari and LibraryThing allow users to catalog their personal book collections and participate in a social network built around the connections linking books and users, though LibraryThing has somewhat more of a foothold in the library world. The immediate ramifications of the new relationship between the two social book-sharing sites are still unclear, but Shelfari’s access to and potential integration with Amazon’s data services pose distinct challenges to its competitors. As LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding wrote in a post to the “Talk” section of the LibraryThing site, “once the Amazon/Shelfari deal goes through, we are competing against Amazon.”

In the message, Spalding outlined a number of assets he believed his company and staff possess that could provide an edge over Shelfari and others, including independence and openness at all levels of the site’s administration, as well as the company’s close relationship with libraries, saying “[LibraryThing’s] use of 690 libraries around the world will be key.”

Josh Hadro About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (@hadro on Twitter) is the former Executive Editor of Library Journal.