Though it took me a while to see the value in it, I now use Goodreads constantly. I love the website but have seen many authors who definitely don't love the site and it's not hard to see why. While Goodreads is essentially a book-centric Facebook that's great for browsing books, keeping track of what you've read, and seeing what your friends are reading, there's a decidedly uncool downside to it that's been apparent to me for a while now.
And that is this: Goodreads, for some reason, lends itself to reviewers being absolutely ruthless. Not ruthless in the brutal, honest way but in a needlessly negative and mean-spirited way. While most bloggers are, if not nice, at least tactful in the reviews they post to their blogs, some are less so on Goodreads. It's not uncommon to see Goodreads reviews that bash not only the book, but also the author -- as a writer and, sometimes, as a person.
It's disconcerting on a few levels.
For one thing, I get now why so many authors seem to be anti-Goodreads. Though I think it's a great tool as a reader and will probably never stop using it as a reader, I also know how easy it is to stumble upon absolutely cringeworthy reviews and/or comments. And I know if those were my books getting the beat down I'd definitely want to hide under the blankets with lots of loud music to distract me from the outside world. There's nothing wrong, as a reader, with disliking a book, negatively reviewing it or even giving a scathing, bashing review. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of this, I think. It could be seen as mean or it could be seen as critical analysis of books that (at least in the reviewer's opinion) aren't very good.
The problem -- and it's nobody's fault -- is that Goodreads is a strange little cross-section of the internet. It's reader-centric, but not reader-exclusive. Many authors have profiles and the meeting of authors, readers, and books makes it incredibly easy both for authors to find their negative reviews (either accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose) or for readers to complain and commiserate about a particular book or author's failings. In some ways I feel like the culture of Goodreads lends itself to more negativity than you'd find on book blogs or even Amazon reviews. On Goodreads it's as much about the readers as it is the book. And since readers are people and people sometimes like to complain together... well, you see what happens.
On another level there's a trend I've seen for a while that, as a reader, saddens me. It's reviewers who seem to be habitually unhappy with the books they read. Usually these are people who stick with a few genres or subgenres (fantasy, for instance, or dystopian) and -- seemingly without fail -- find the books they read horribly lacking. Either the characters were flat and cliche or the writing was subpar or details of the world-building just didn't work. These are all legitimate issues in books and I've complained about them myself in certain books. But with some readers there's a sense of superiority and the underlying message that they're better than the authors they're reading, the books being published today, the books they choose to read. It often culminates in bashing of the author or the entire genre in the review itself or comments below.
Even if I haven't read the book in question it often leaves me feeling a bit upset and I can't help but think if you're finding these huge, overwhelming problems in every single book in a certain genre, maybe you don't actually like the genre. Maybe the books just aren't a good fit for you. Maybe you used to like it and now you don't. Maybe it's time to find books you're going to enjoy, even if they're outside of your comfort zone. It makes me feel like readers are needlessly and consistently exposing themselves to books it's obvious they hate and then what's the point? After eighteen years of reading I don't know what the aim of this activity should be, but I know it shouldn't make you angry and hateful towards others.
Authors work hard on their words that, sadly, end up being a "product." It's one thing to critically review a book, point out its flaws, even rip it a new one if you think the book deserves it. But it's something else entirely to also bash the author and infuse your words with what comes off as disgust and a spiteful, superior attitude. There's something to be said for honesty delivered in a thoughtful way.
Opinions? Have you found that there's a negative atmosphere to Goodreads?