For the first time ever, actual science can be derived from reading habits.
Thanks to e-books, companies like Amazon and B&N now know whether people are actually reading the e-books they buy. Better yet, they even know where in books people are leaving off, which books are most likely to be read all the way through, and the speed people are reading them.
As Mike Shatzkin points out, this is important knowledge that the e-booksellers have and publishers do not. It could be more important to know whether people finish a bestselling book than how many copies it sells. If people stop reading and start reading something else instead, it could be a sign people might not be as enthusiastic for that author’s next book. And if people read something very quickly it could be a sign of enthusiasm.
The possibilities don’t stop there. Could authors improve if they knew at which spots in their book people are dropping off?
Needless to say, this frontier is not without its controversy. Readers may not like to have their e-reading habits snooped, even if it’s done anonymously. Authors may be frustrated to be confronted with yet another backwards-looking tool that can pigeonhole them based on their past books without considering whether the new one is really good. And publishers may be frustrated that Amazon and the other e-booksellers possesses this competitive advantage.
I’m excited to have any new insight available, provided this information is made available to authors. It hardly seems fair if this information is hoarded by the e-booksllers if it’s being used to make decisions about whether and how an author is signed or promoted. And, of course, care must be taken to ensure that reader privacy is protected.
What about you? Would you want to know where people are leaving off in your book? Is this new technology exciting or intrusive?
Art: The Librarian by Giuseppe Arcimbolo