Last week, some Goodreads users received a disappointing message: The popular book tracking website is disabling access to its API for users who haven’t used the product in more than 30 days. The company says it “plans to retire these tools” altogether and that, as of December 8, it will no longer issue new keys. It’s unclear when or if Goodreads will close off its API to active users.
“When I found out, I was pretty upset,” says Karen Ellett, a software developer in South Carolina who uses the Goodreads API to power a private tool that tracks book series. The tool, which she had hoped to eventually release for other people to use, keeps track of new releases in book series she reads, which is a function Goodreads doesn’t currently offer. When a new book gets added to the series, Ellett’s tool updates automatically, so she doesn’t have to go looking for it on her own when she’s ready to dive back into the series. Since she’s read 172 books this year, it’s not easy for her to mentally juggle all the new additions she wants to get to on her own.
“I’ve put so many hours into developing this tool not just for myself, but with an eye towards it being utilized by other people. I’d say I was probably about 70–80% done, and now there’s just no point,” she says.
As Goodreads is a stagnant product that has barely improved its functionality and features since it was acquired by Amazon in 2013, thousands of readers with basic coding skills use the Goodreads API to power their own better features and tools. On a thread about the change for Goodreads developers, one user says the Discord book recommendations bot he was in the process of building suddenly stopped working. Another says his tool, which analyzes statistics related to the authors on a Goodreads user’s “read” list, will be shut down, nullifying countless hours of work he put into the feature.
“It’s pretty infuriating.”