Do You Want to Know How Your Books Are Being Read?

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When my first book was published, my publisher set me up with a book signing at a design conference. I happily sold and signed a huge stack of books, then sent them off with their new owners, not really knowing what would happen with them next.

But as I left the conference, I spied two people huddled around my book. Then one pointed at something in the book, and the two of them laughed. This little glimpse of my book out in the wild haunts me to this day what were they laughing at?  Suffice to say, my subject was not humor.

Surely, every author wonders how their book is perceived and consumed. You get reliable feedback through literary reviews, and certainly from buyer reviews on sites like Amazon and GoodReads. But now technology is tracking how books are being read—as they are being read. The New York Times article As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You tells how subscription-based e-book startups like Entitle are collecting data on how users are reading their books, with plans to share it with publishers. Information like how many books are read all the way through, verses abandoned halfway through. Where users pause or what content they might bookmark. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are already collecting information, which they consider proprietary. (For now, that is.)

As the article says:

Quinn Loftis, a writer of young adult paranormal romances who lives in western Arkansas, interacts extensively with her fans on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Flickr and her own website. These efforts at community, most of which did not exist a decade ago, have already given the 33-year-old a six-figure annual income. But having actual data about how her books are being read would take her market research to the ultimate level.

“What writer would pass up the opportunity to peer into the reader’s mind?” she asked.

Aside from the privacy concerns, is this information authors really need or want? There’s already so much feedback with social media and online reviews—how do you feel about peeking into the actual reading habits of your fans? Given the opportunity, would you access this information? Would it affect the way you approached your next book? Sound off in the comments below.

Lisa Hazen is a Chicago-based Web Designer specializing in author Web sites. She’d love to hear from you at or [email protected].


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