What is the Kindle Social Network?

Did you know there is a Kindle social network? It’s not a full-fledged social network, so it’s a bit hard to figure out what it is. More like the Kindle social networking features which were always there, consolidated into one place. You can check it out at:

https://kindle.amazon.com/

The gist of it: the Kindle site/network builds off of the concept of Kindle’s Public Notes and offers a web location for related activities — such as creating a profile page, following other Kindle users (more on that in a second), and other details about reading habits:

  • Review and remember more of what you read.
  • Follow people of interest to you to see their Public Notes.
  • Manage your books, highlights, and notes.

It sure did happen with a very minimal amount of fanfare on Amazon’s end. As eBookNewser (“Amazon Quietly Launched a Kindle Social Network”) points out: “I’m not sure that this qualifies as news, other than the fact it happened so quietly. The new features appear to have been launched quite some time ago; there are some users with hundreds if not thousands of followers.”

Seems like it was meant to be a very low-key approach to making Kindle reading a bit more social. That’s fine enough, I guess. However, Wired (“Amazon’s New(ish) Social Network — Now Lifting Even More Info From Facebook, Twitter”) takes Amazon to task for how they decided to roll out that social network integration:

“When kindle.amazon.com was introduced in February, you had to manually add users you wanted to follow. Now, if you’ve linked your Twitter or Facebook accounts to Public Notes, you automatically follow other connected users that you follow on those networks.

The old way was a bit of a crapshoot — it was hard to find and add other people unless they explicitly advertised their accounts or began broadcasting their highlights and marginalia on their blogs or social media. The new way is a little bit creepy — particularly since there doesn’t seem to have been any announcement from Amazon that they were changing how social media links were going to be used.

[Now] the default for linking social media networks is set to broadcast your Public Notes activity on those networks to all your friends and followers. That option at least can be shut off; auto-adding the people you follow can’t. If you link your Kindle public notes to Twitter or Facebook because you would occasionally like to share a passage or note from a book you’re reading, you’re stuck auto-following everybody else who wants to do the same.

But it’s worth noting that Barnes & Noble took precisely the opposite approach with Nook Friends. On the Nook and Nook Color, you can share with third-party social media like Twitter or Facebook, or you can share with B&N’s Nook Friends, but the networks are completely sandboxed from one another. “

Maybe the assumption by Amazon is that anyone who opted to share their notes publicly would want to follow and share those notes with those in their social networks anyways. Maybe. But, there’s no accounting for what everyone will want to do with their privacy settings, and people are naturally sensitize about how their privacy is managed. Especially when they aren’t given the option of what they want to do with it. In comparison with Barnes & Noble’s approach with Nook Friends, it really does seem like Amazon should have at least offered the option, right? I’m assuming the only reason there wasn’t more of a Google Buzz-like uproar is that nobody really knows about it.

Social reading note sharing is a nice enough idea in theory, but I haven’t jumped on board, simply because I prefer my reading notes to be my reading notes. And that’s just my preference. But there are a lot of possibilities about how to make Kindle reading more social and to provide compelling features users will take notice of. For one thing, my reaction was a little more of “that’s it?” after seeing what the Kindle Social Networkish thing was all about. It’s a start, and remains to be seen if Amazon plans to build off of this. But it’s certainly not threatening to take away users from GoodReads or some of the other reading social websites.

The Atlantic (“Amazon’s Social-Networking Site Doesn’t Do Most-Needed Thing”) is thinking along the right track here — “my real disappointment is that there’s still no social network integration with the Kindle e-lending feature, something that would let me enter a title of a book I’d like to read and then see who in my network has it to lend to me. The reason for this seems obvious — why would Amazon want to create a massive lending pool that would likely lead to people buying fewer books on its site?” Now there’s an idea: a social reading website that offered unique and useful features such as book lending — along with other things social readers would want while connecting with other social readers — would be very, very interesting.

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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