E-Book Sellers Track Readers' Habits
Science fiction, romance and crime fiction fan tend to read quickly, to read one book at a time and to finish the books they start. Literary fiction fans, on the other hand, read more slowly and tend to skip between books. The publishing industry has picked out these trends and others by tracking how people use their e-readers, the Wall Street Journal reported. E-readers give publishers more data about their customers than they've ever had before, allowing companies to tailor ways of keeping people glued to their books.
With their focus groups, the TV and movie industries have long had much more data about their customers than publishers. And reading has long felt much more private and solitary than watching movies and shows. Yet e-readers give companies the ability to track the minutiae of people's reading habits: what they read, how fast they read, what they highlight, how far they get in books before quitting.
E-book sellers and publishing companies are only just starting to use these data and they have much more data than they know what to do with, Jim Hilt, the vice president of e-books at Barnes & Noble, told the Wall Street Journal. One of their biggest goals is to pinpoint when people stop reading – this tends to happen most in long non-fiction works, Barnes & Noble found – so they can stick in videos, links and other multimedia content to keep people going.
Some publishers also test works digitally before sending them to the printers. One especially amusing example came from Coliloquy, a digital publishing company, which takes data from choose-your-own-adventure books to decide how their next books' plots should go. The choose-your-own format allowed the company to sketch out erotica fans' ideal hero:
Readers of "Great Escapes," an erotic romance series co-written by Linda Wisdom and Lynda K. Scott, can customize the hero's appearance and the intensity of the love scenes. A recent report from Coliloquy showed that the ideal hero for "Great Escapes" readers is tall with black hair and green eyes, a rugged, burly build and a moderately but not overly hairy chest.
When books were first invented, reading was actually a fairly communal activity. Towns had public readings to benefit the non-literate, which was the majority of the population. Even literate people read aloud, not in their heads as people do today. In one famous passage from his autobiography, St. Augustine marveled at seeing the fourth-century bishop Ambrose reading silently to himself. The change to silent reading was a major shift in the way people think and experience books.
Now the act of reading is about to change again, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Like everything else in people's digital lives, it will become trackable and somewhat public again.
Source: Wall Street Journal