Your e-Reader is Spying

In my introduction to “Ten Essential Elements of Successful Book Promotion,” which I shared at Publishers’ Institute at ICRS this summer, I state the following:

“I wish I could stand up here and tell you that I have a formula for making your book a best seller. I can’t. If I had such a formula, I would be a very wealthy woman.”

However, new technology may actually end up being able to make a formula for a best-selling book.

Publishing has always lagged behind the rest of the entertainment industry when it comes to measuring consumers’ preferences and habits. TV and movie producers frequently run new shows through focus groups or a battery of tests on viewers’ preferences and reactions. The publishing industry, to date, has largely gauged reader satisfaction on sales data and reviews—after a book has been produced.

This may actually eventually change with new data that is being tracked via e-readers. Digital book retailers have sophisticated software to track and store consumer information detailing what books are purchased and read. For example, Barnes & Noble tracks how far readers get in a book and how quickly they read, and Amazon tracks the reader’s highlights, notes and annotations, bookmarks, and last page read.

In essence, your e-reader is reading you.

Through analyzing data from Nook users, Barnes & Noble has found that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts while novels are generally read straight through. They also found that readers tend to quit longer nonfiction books part-way through.

With e-readers being able to answer questions like:

  • Do most readers quite after a few pages or finish the book in a single setting?
  • Do most readers skip over the introduction or read it closely, underlining passages?
  • Do most readers buy the sequel immediately upon finishing the first book in the series?

Some people believe that answers to these questions along with pinpointing how readers read and when they get bored could help publishers create better books.

What do you think?

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