Your E-Reader is a Spy
I hope you saw this important article in the Wall Street Journal last week: Your E-Book is Reading You. It detailed the ways that e-readers are tracking reader’s habits and as a result, bringing actual market research to publishing—something that has been severely lacking in our industry.
The data is still in the beginning phases of being gathered and analyzed, and it will be some time before it becomes clear exactly how (or if) publishers will use the information. Obviously they’re going to want to create a better experience for readers and consequently, sell more books.
Some quotes from the article:
- Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier.
- Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start.
- Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.
- Nook users who buy the first book in a popular series like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Divergent,” a young-adult series by Veronica Roth, tend to tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel.
I think the new data will provide powerful and previously unavailable direction for publishers and authors as they seek to provide the best experience possible for readers.
Wouldn’t it be great to know if people were reading your book in a day, a week, or in fits and starts over weeks or months? Would it help you to know if there was a certain point in your book when readers tend to get bored and drop it? And isn’t it fun to know what lines from your book people are highlighting?
Of course, the whole idea is controversial:
- Literary purists reject the notion of an author being influenced by this kind of data—the vision of the artist is at stake here.
- Some readers and privacy advocates are worried about how this invades our right to keep our reading habits private.
What do you think? As both a reader and a writer, how do you respond to the new data becoming available from e-readers?
1. As an author, would you be open to changing what you write based on research indicating readers’ preferences?
2. As a reader, do you object to your reading habits being tracked?
Let’s talk about it. Leave your response in the comments!