The Amazon influence on Shelfari is beginning to show. In their first major move since hiring publishing heavyweight David Nudo, former publisher of Publisher's Weekly, to be their Director of Sales and Marketing Shelfari has announced the creation of wiki-style author pages.
Shelfari hopes that this new feature will help them "become a destination for not only biographical information but interactions between authors and their fans"
Authors will now be able to create their own pages which "will feature an open wiki in addition to a message board and a list of written books."
Jason Kincaid has a post on the new initiative over at TechCrunch and says "With the introduction of these new profiles, Shelfari is poised to become a uniquely rich repository of literary information, and has the potential to become an IMDB for books."
IMDB, also an Amazon company, has proven to be a hugely successful content portal for all things movies and it will be interesting to see how this plays out for Shelfari.
Will they eventually charge authors to have pages? (similar to the IMDB Pro model)
Will fictional characters have their own pages?
Will you be able download e-versions of the authors work only to your Kindle?
Print copies on demand only through Book Surge?
The current book social network model of readers simply sharing their bookshelves and interacting has severe limitations when it comes to monetizing and is not, I suspect, a sustainable long-term business model. By trying to build a content destination Shelfari is trying to build a destination for advertisers. Remember, Nudo once ran the book advertising world for the New York Times.
As Kincaid also states "the success of these wiki pages will rely heavily on author interaction, which will likely be difficult to establish. Without this interaction, users might as well head to Wikipedia to get the dish on their favorite authors."
The other liability, and one all the other book social networks lack except for LibraryThing, is bibliographic integrity. No other site has been able to duplicate the bibliographic depth of LibraryThing. If Shelfari is serious about their biblio portal dream then they must address this side of the coin. All the front-end fluff will only get you so far.
One thing is clear; however, if Amazon decides to throw more of its weight behind Shelfari it will be hard to count them out.