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.

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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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It’s Read an E-Book Week

This week is officially Read an E-Book Week.

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The purpose of Read an E-Book Week is to educate and inform the public about the pleasures and advantages of reading electronically. Some authors and publishers may feel like this week is no longer necessary with the growth of e-reading. Read an E-Book Week was originally registered with the Chase’s Calendar of Events in 2004. Since that time, sales of ebooks has only grown to constitute less than one-third of all book sales. With this statistic, it seems to me there is still room for ebook reading awareness.

New data from the Codex Group, a New York book industry research firm, suggests that further work may be needed to increase readers’ awareness of the availability of ebooks. According to Codex Group’s survey of 2,042 ebook buyers, 86% of them buy ebooks from only one retailer, mostly Amazon, Apple, or Barnes & Noble.

While this is good news for the big retailers, this is not so good news for the smaller ebook retailers. Small retailers receive most of their ebook sales from just 14% of ebook buyers who shop from more than one retailer. In essence smaller ebook retailers—including author and publisher ebook sales via their own websites—have an uphill battle to fight to sell ebooks.

So, Read an E-Book Week may be the time to attract some ebook sales direct from your website by offering a price promotion to celebrate this event.

I am doing just that, but with a twist. You see, I did not get the ebook version of my newly released Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace up on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble in time to celebrate Read an E-Book Week. However, I am offering it as a downloadable PDF (one ebook format) on my website for $21.99. You can order your ebook copy today, just visit www.marketingchristianbooks.com.

What special are you offering on your ebooks to celebrate Read an E-Book Week?