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Cyia
11-24-2009, 09:28 PM
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/11/top-10-myths-about-e-books.html

Over on Nathan Bransford's blog, he's been talking about e-books and e-readers, and someone brought up an interesting question:


Can they monitor reading? As in know that 10,000 people bought BookA but only 2,000 read it past chapter 3?

With ITunes, your player tracks how many times you play a particular song, so it's not hard to imagine that an E-reader (or ITablet, if they ever get around to putting them on the market) could do the same.

Playing the paranoid for a moment:

In a world where e-books are the market kings...

Not only is there a record of every book you own, but possibly how much of it you've read (as every "turned page" is a command on the device.)

Amazon has the ability to zap books off people's Kindles, so they're connected to each device via wi-fi at all times and can search for particular titles (Wasn't it Catcher in the Rye?).

What's to stop them from not only monitoring the reading materials?

And as a marketing tool, the implications are bigger.

Could it be a good thing in that the publisher won't make a mistake by risking a 200,000 volume print run on a sequel that 30,000 people are going to buy?

If Joe Author's book sells a million copies (Joe Author is, after all, the next big thing -- vampiric wizards out to unravel a historical conspiracy, and all that), but according to the reading stats, 90% of the readers who downloaded it only got past page 15, will it affect the sale of Joe Author's next book?

He's still a million selling author, but now his publisher knows that either his readers are easily distracted, or that they're not satisfied with the book enough to keep reading.

Sure, there are already ways this can happen (Burning Dawn, anyone?), but bean counters like statistics, and machines are great at generating them.

Phaeal
11-24-2009, 10:04 PM
Veeeeery interesting. I would be interested to see the difference between how many Books A were sold and how many Books A were read/lent out/deleted. I imagine publishers would be interested, too.

Could be either very heartening or very embarrassing for authors to read such stats, though.

scarletpeaches
11-24-2009, 10:07 PM
Why would they care if no-one read past p.15, as long as the book sold?

Shadow_Ferret
11-24-2009, 10:13 PM
Why would they care if no-one read past p.15, as long as the book sold?

Well, as suggested, it might influence purchases of the sequel.

Mad Queen
11-24-2009, 10:36 PM
Well, as suggested, it might influence purchases of the sequel.
And recommendations.

Misa Buckley
11-24-2009, 10:46 PM
Hm, I'm not sure even if the stats were pulled up that it could be called "Big Brother". What is could be is a marketing tool - surely if they could pick out who'd read the book then they'd be able to narrow the demographic.

If one wants to be published, then knowing there is an audience (and where it is) could be quite useful. So the first book didn't sell well? Surely it's better to know that before you spend x amount of time on a similar book?


Could it be a good thing in that the publisher won't make a mistake by risking a 200,000 volume print run on a sequel that 30,000 people are going to buy?

Production costs would be down which should mean the product costs less. It should also mean that the publisher has more money to spend on other books.

"Should" isn't "would" though :Shrug:

scarletpeaches
11-24-2009, 11:05 PM
Well, as suggested, it might influence purchases of the sequel.I'm a bit stupid; that penny didn't drop.

But here's something else I don't get. Why has the phrase 'print run' been mentioned in a thread about e-books?

Cyia
11-24-2009, 11:08 PM
I'm assuming Joe Author also had physical book sales (Like Dan Brown's million books in a day between print and e-books)

It could be as simple as only the e-readers are stopping early, and the ones who buy hardbacks sped through the book (but there's no nifty button to push so a publisher can see how many finished those old things)

I'm also wondering if publishers will start doing like Disney and giving a free "digital"copy with purchase of a real one.

Jamesaritchie
11-24-2009, 11:27 PM
Publishers don't care if readers stop reading after three words. In fact, pubishers already know that a high percentage of books on the bestseller list are never finished, and they don't care.

I can just imagine a publisher telling a writer, "Yes, I know eight-seven million people bought your last book, but most of them stopped reading after chapter one, so, sorry, no sequel for you."

ChristineR
11-25-2009, 03:14 AM
Well...they could figure out what percentage of the people who didn't read past chapter one actually bought the next book in the series. If it was close to zero, then they could deduce that when a first book is not finished, it the second book in the series will be worth less. So after a little data gathering, they might decide not to commission the sequels.

Or, they could learn that a large number of people stopped reading when an animal died, or a child was tortured, or something else that a lot of people say they don't care to read. If this happened, and it was also shown that people who stop reading under these circumstances also stop buying books in the series, then you might have publishers asking authors to take the gross stuff out.

Jamesaritchie
11-25-2009, 04:07 AM
Well...they could figure out what percentage of the people who didn't read past chapter one actually bought the next book in the series. If it was close to zero, then they could deduce that when a first book is not finished, it the second book in the series will be worth less. So after a little data gathering, they might decide not to commission the sequels.

Or, they could learn that a large number of people stopped reading when an animal died, or a child was tortured, or something else that a lot of people say they don't care to read. If this happened, and it was also shown that people who stop reading under these circumstances also stop buying books in the series, then you might have publishers asking authors to take the gross stuff out.

Thie mistake is thinking that publishers don't already know all this stuff. Publishers get a blue ton of feedback from readers, far more now than in teh pre-internet days, and they received a lot back then. They know exactly how most readers will react when an animal gets killed, when a child gets killed, when a book isn't finished, etc., etc.

Nothing matters until and unless the books stop selling, and there isn't a shred of evidence that anything at all matters except sales. When readers in large numbers buy a writer's first book, they always buy the second in large numbers, no matter what the first book contained.

All readers really care about is a good story and good empathetic characters.

And, of course, we still many years from e-books being the best sellers, and probably many years before e-book readers draw the right readership to make any such stats matter.

Cyia
11-25-2009, 04:18 AM
The difference here would be having real time data specific by region. Instead of blanketing the whole market with a certain writer's books, they can make the distribution proportional to where they sell the best.

It would also have applications into how and where people purchase. Do they get their books strictly off the internet, do they impulse buy while looking through the Kindle (or whatever) store? Do they get their books from a library exchange? Do they lend their books to anyone? Do they go somewhere like B&N, browse physical books, and then seek a digital value.

The number of lent books could impact the availability of lendable titles. Or change the technology's evolution.

If buyers still look for their book selections in a physical store, it can affect marketing styles.

It's not just a matter of tracking readership, but it could be a privacy invasion case waiting to happen.

jennontheisland
11-25-2009, 04:31 AM
It's not just a matter of tracking readership, but it could be a privacy invasion case waiting to happen.
Except that when Amazon deleted books off of people's Kindles, it wasn't a privacy issue.

I could be totally wrong here, and I have no idea what the technical and legal terms are but from what I understand you don't actually buy an ebook, you buy the right to read it. And when you buy that right, for example from Amazon for the Kindle, you're agreeing to certain stipulations (and apparently one of those is that Amazon can remove material from the Kindle). They could just as easily include that your reading habits of material purchased from them, or stored on the Kindle, can be monitored. I'm pretty sure they could slip that into the fine print without people noticing.

Cyia
11-25-2009, 04:36 AM
I'd think the argument would be akin to: They have the right to track their property, but not watch over the shoulders of those using it.

jennontheisland
11-25-2009, 04:41 AM
How many times you've turned a page in their property could be considered metadata about that property.

Medievalist
11-25-2009, 05:15 AM
It is metadata.

The Kindle license is a ULA; you rent their software, you don't own it. And yes, they are collecting data.

Cyia
11-25-2009, 05:18 AM
Not saying anyone would win, but it sounds like the kind of thing that would get a lot of air and online coverage if someone tried to sue. ;)

kaitie
11-25-2009, 06:43 AM
There have already been cases in which buying certain books could get you an FBI file, and I've even read within the past five years or so of people being added to a watch list based on what books they bought, though I can't find the article on it.

I don't see how e-books will necessarily change that. I mean, it's already happening (or happened in the past). It might make it a bit easier to keep an eye on people who buy certain books, but before it would have been from buying with a credit card or checking out something from the library. While I think that's messed up, I'm not all that alarmed that e-readers will bring some new era in monitoring beyond what's already happening.

I'll look around later if I have some time and try to find one of those articles again. It's been ages since I've seen it, but I do remember some controversy surrounding it because some of them were classics that people often read for school. It's one of those things that could have been more conspiracy theory than fact, however. I'll have to find it again to find out.

Medievalist
11-25-2009, 06:55 AM
Not saying anyone would win, but it sounds like the kind of thing that would get a lot of air and online coverage if someone tried to sue. ;)

The tack I'd take is that my metadata is governed by my copyright, just like my DNA falls under my copyright.

I understand--far too well--the value, and fascination, and utililty of such data.

I just want people to know it's being collected, and to have the right to opt out of the data pool.

Cyia
11-25-2009, 06:57 AM
But... but... but... opting out corrupts the data. :cry: