Collecting Reading Data

Data provides information that can be analyzed to help businesses improve. Hence, many businesses seek various types of data to use in evaluation purposes.

data

Authors and publishers like data also. One piece of data that was difficult to secure in the days of print-only was information on how people read books. With book publishing, information often only flows one-way—from content creators to consumers.

Digital books may be changing this information flow. With the advent of digital books, data on how people read books can be collected. Reading apps and e-reading device software can record virtually every user interaction with a book from when a book is opened, to when a page is turned, to what time of day the book is read, to when the book is abandoned, and more.

Currently, the biggest seller of ebooks, Amazon, does not share any of this data with authors or publishers. Others, like Kobo, have begun to make some of the data available—for a fee. To protect consumer privacy, user data is aggregated and anonymized. An author or publisher cannot see what any particular individual did. So, correlations cannot be made on things such as writing a review on Goodreads and tweeting about the book. Hence, a lot of valuable marketing information remains hidden.

Is it possible for an author or publisher to put a piece of software inside an ebook so they could see how customers are actually reading the book? Is there a way authors and publishers could have direct, unfettered data from their ebooks?

Interestingly, there appears to be a way to do this. One company, Jellybooks, has developed a working prototype of such an application. Jellybooks has found a way to combine HTML5, CSS3, and JS to create an application that can be attached to an EPUB file. This application records how the book is read.

Due to concerns about privacy, Jellybooks is currently only using the software with some free ebooks that are part of a focus group. The reader gets a free ebook, and in return, the publisher gets data that shows them how each individual reader is interacting with the ebook. In essence, this software is being used in advanced-reader copies that are issued not to collect reviews, but user data.

Jellybooks believes that the kind of reading data that their new software is tracking is really most valuable before a book is published. Knowing how individual users are interacting with a book can better position the publisher to make changes in the final copy to better engage readers, as well as better position the publisher for marketing and promoting the book.

What do you think of this idea?

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