Saturday, July 21, 2007

Move over MySpace, Shelfari's in town!

Amazon seems to have their hands in many pies these days. They're latest adventure is a site called Shelfari. The company's own mission statements reads, "Shelfari introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari was the first social media site focused on books, and will continue to innovate as it brings together the world's readers. Our mission is the enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word."

The site was launched in October 2006, but after poor user response, Amazon pumped money into the program and has now found a surge in popularity for authors to promote their work and to link into reviewers who have pages up, as well as publishers promoting their author's work. MySpace was originally a place for musical performers to meet, but soon saw an influx of users of every kind, including authors, publicists, publishers and book reviewers. Those people are now flocking to Shelfari because this is a literary dedicated service.

Not only are industry professionals using this as a marketing tool, but those valued readers are filling their "My Shelf" pages with books from their bookshelves from home. And why not? This site also offers a tracking facility whereby users can add private notes on who they've lended their precious books too...the borrowers name, date of lend and expected return date...just like at the library! And each book users link to shows how many other people are reading that book, including those from the user's list of friends. Click on the book to see who else is reading the book. By clicking onto their user pages users can request friendship links, join discussion groups and send notes...ideal ways to join into a public or private discussion of shared interests.

Of course, because this is an Amazon adventure, each book listed on Shelfari is linked to Amazon for purchase. Here's where they get really sneaky. Anyone familiar with Amazon's affiliate program knows that if you sign up and link your addiliate number to the book you want to buy you will get a commission on the sale of the book. Any online shop that links to books do this to earn money. Commissions are a great thing if the site linking to Amazon has a lot of buyers. However, Shelfari has linked their own commission generating account ID to the amazon links so Shelfari earns the commissions rather than the person who's listed the books on their Shelfari shelves or the buyer, who's undoubtedly a Shelfari user as well. Remember...Shelfari is part of Amazon! So basically, Amazon is earning themselves commissions at their own company!! Do I smell conflict of interest here??

Regardless, Shelfari seems to be blazing a trail across the internet, picking up users along the way at a pace similar to a snowball rolling down hill at a hundred miles an hour. Why it's taken so long for interest to pick up is unknown. Perhaps an added marketing campaign or just that Amazon has now aligned themselves with Shelfari? Who knows!? But whatever they're doing, it must be working...oops! Just got email and guess what? Two more invites to Shelfari! LOL

So have I succombed to this phenomenon? Of course. There's nothing like a good bandwagon! I signed up my reviewing website for now, but will add my author website eventually. Click on the reading lady image (Charles Edward Perugini's Girl Reading) to log in, or click SHELFARI to log into My Shelf. I had joined MySpace a good while back and immediately found it cumbersom and annoying, and full of YouTubes (not ideal for someone on dial-up). This week alone I have been hit no less than ten times by invitations to join Shelfari. After ignoring the first couple invites, assuming this was some form of spam, I logged in to see what all the fuss was about.

Compared to MySpace, Shelfari has a basic appealing color scheme, links are easily navigable and, sure, it's a great way to connect with friends and make new ones. Similar to Yahoo Groups, there are message boards dedicated to every genre and subgenre imaginable. There's even an added option to leave your friends notes on their pages, or to send notes privately via email.

Now that I've gotten used to how the program works, keeping in mind this site is still working in beta version, there is a large segment of authors being overlooked. Simply said, if a book is not listed on Amazon, it doesn't get on Shelfari. Many electronically published authors whose books are only on sale via their publisher's websites for electronic download will miss the boat on Shelfari. I'm sure they will rectify this eventually, but for now, those authors may want to push their publishers to start listing their e-only books on Amazon to get listed on Shelfari...and to generate more sales of course.

So what do you think? Have you visited Shelfari? If not, log into their site and check it out...SHELFARI . If you have, come by My Shelf and drop me a note. Better yet, send me a friendship request. One can never have too many friends =-)