About three years ago, I had to take a trip for work. I would be gone for ten days with a group of colleagues I had never met before. In a foreign country. Packing lots of books seemed like a good idea.
But I read very fast. And I didn’t want to have to pack a dozen books, so I picked up a Kindle. And, like many people, I fell in love. I didn’t think I would. There’s something comforting about holding a traditional book. Nonetheless, it was great. I even forgot it was a Kindle at times, placing it face down, to hold my page. 🙂
I noticed when reading e-books that certain phrases were highlighted. There’d be a fuzzy grey line underneath a sentence or two and a tag saying something along the line of 237 highlights. I never gave it a thought. Never even wondered what it meant.
Then I read the Wall Street Journal article by Alexandra Alter entitled “You’re E-Book is Reading You.” Alter explained how the Kindle is used to as a marketing tool for authors, publishers, etc. So the number of times a certain phrase is highlighted is tracked. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304870304577490950051438304.html)
But more information than that is gathered. Where the reader stops reading, how long a reader sits, do they finish the book in one sitting, three, not at all?
When I first read the article, I had two simultaneous reactions: ‘That’s cool’ and ‘That’s kind of creepy’. Let’s start with the creepy. The idea that someone is tracking my reading habits smacks of an Orwellian world. Big brother reading over my shoulder. Shudder.
But as an aspiring author and data junkie, I love the idea of being able to ascertain trends and facts that can help market books. There’s no denying that e-books have revolutionized reading. Traditional publishers are now taking this data and putting it to work for them. Self published authors need to do the same. Now I’m not saying people should massively change their novels. But they should consider, at the very least, readers preferences in their marketing strategies. I talked about those preferences a few blogs ago. (See Size Does Matter . . . Even for Books!)
So what do you think? Creepy or Helpful? Or maybe a little bit of both?