Thursday, July 12, 2012

Your E-books Track Your Reading Habits

So I read Hunger Games in about three days, and it’s going to take me about three months to finish reading Infinite Jest.  What’s it to you?

Well, apparently it will mean a lot to the publishing industry. 

Your e-book apps monitor your reading habits and provide feedback to the companies that provide the apps (like Amazon and Barnes & Noble). 

According to Alexandra Alter in an article published in The Wall Street Journal, “The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books.”

Some consumers are less than thrilled to have their reading habits monitored, believing it’s nobody’s business what they read.  Also according to Alter, “California instituted the ‘reader privacy act,’ which makes it more difficult for law-enforcement groups to gain access to consumers' digital reading records. Under the new law, agencies must get a court order before they can require digital booksellers to turn over information revealing which books their customers have browsed, purchased, read and underlined.”

American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Google are among the groups are hoping to pass similar laws in other states.  
Other consumers and professionals are excited for the boost in market research in the publishing industry because it is, as RachelleGardner, a literary agent, writes on her blog, “something that has been severely lacking in our industry.”

The process of accumulating and analyzing this type of data is still in an infant stage, no one yet knows exactly what direction it will take.  But I believe it will help boost the publishing industry, boost book sales, and ultimately help writers. 

How do you feel about Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Apple tracking your reading habits?


Emily Bone said...

I think it's okay so long as it doesn't turn into a horrible cynical thing where publishers use the data to come up with a 'template' of the books that sell best, thereby forcing writers to write in a certain way if they want to get picked up.

We shall see....

Anne Greenawalt said...

I'm pretty sure some editors do encourage (force) writers to write a certain way to boost sales (especially with mainstream fiction).

I just heard of a writer today who, at the end of a four-book series, killed her main character, but her editor made her keep the character alive so they could make money from a fifth book in the series. Ha.

At least with market research they'll have some hard data to back up their "suggestions" to the authors :)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

It does seem like an invasion of privacy in general. We really have none left I am sure. But I keep thinking I can maintain a little.

Probably a good reason to buy books at yard sales and used books, don't you think? No one knows what I've got that way! But really, I'm pretty boring in terms of my selection. Juvenile historical fiction and historical books that inform my writing.

I'll probably never read Infinite Jest but if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd want someone to take note!

Anne Greenawalt said...

Joyce, you're right - if you don't want your reading habits to be tracked, buy paperbacks!

But I guess the problem is that most people who read e-books don't know their habits are being tracked, and even if they do know it, there's no way to opt out of it right now.