You Are Being Tracked- How Do You Feel About That?

Did you know your e-reader tracks:

what time of the day you read and for how long?

what passages you highlight?

what notes you might make while reading your book?

if you stop reading the book and where?

how many times you re-read something?

your digital file?

….and we don’t know what they do with all this information?

You just thought you were going to curl up by yourself and read a good book. Who knew you had someone looking over your shoulder and taking notes about you?


From this technology, they now know that the average time to read the Hunger Games is approximately 7hours, nearly 18,000 people have highlighted the same line from the second book, and the first thing that happens on The Nook is that readers immediately downloaded the next book in the series.

In the past when books were tangible items and you actually owned what you bought, the experience was a personal tete a tete with the author. No one was with you two except the wonderful characters that took up residence on the collaborative journey called reading.

Obviously from a business stand point this information is golden. If a significant amount of readers stop reading a book by page 165, then something must be done to bolster that story line. Suggestions have been made that at that point they could then insert a short video or other props to re-capture the readers’ attention. Should they invest in an author if folks only read through the story once or should they only heavily promote those that get their books annotated and highlighted? Amazon is now a publisher as well, this could be the golden ticket to marketing and higher returns.th_doortomoney_zps1709b59f

Certain authors have come out in favor of utilizing this information as well. Scott Turow, award winning author, lawyer, and president of the Author’s Guild says he’s waited for this type of information for years. He once had an argument with his publisher over the fact that he had been with them for years and had sold almost 25 million books yet they couldn’t tell him who bought his books.” He also argues that if you find a book is too long then you have to be more rigorous in cutting.

While I can understand that this information may be useful to authors, are they really sharing it with the authors? If you’ve published, how many of you have gotten reports on your readers’ habits? How many of you know the intimate details of what your audience did with your book? Is that information actually getting back to you? Would you want that kind of data?

Let’s play what if. What if Jane Austen or Herman Melville had access to this, would their masterpieces have been written the same? Would they have written artistically or tailored their stories to marketing feedback? Would it still be their stories or a book written by committee? So many questions.th_magnifying-glass

If I take off my author hat and put on my reader/consumer hat, you’d find that I have some serious issues with strangers being in my head. I don’t want to be a marketing pawn. I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder while I go back and re-read passages or even whole books. This should be my own private fantasy world. I read to escape, to immerse myself, by myself, in worlds and adventures. I’m not a bleeping ride at Disney Land where folks buy a ticket to come along! (Not that I feel strongly about this issue.)

A few of the readers give you the power to turn off these features, but you have to find them and opt out, they come turned on. Most don’t even give you this option. I provided a link on Tuesday to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and they show a nifty table of all the different formats and how they are set up. I encourage you to glance over the information. You should be informed.

Let me know what you think as an author and as a reader!

13 Responses to You Are Being Tracked- How Do You Feel About That?

  1. maw25 says:

    That’s scary. I don’t highlight or do anything else except read on my Kindle Fire. I’m boring to them in some respects.



  2. Hi Marika-
    I don’t think you are boring at all- you are probably the norm for readers. I suppose it’s just a fact of living in this digital age. We don’t even really buy the books anymore, we rent them of sorts and they can take them back at any time. Just seems like it’s wrong on so many levels.


  3. Nina Cordoba says:

    I hate to tell you, Stacey, but that ship has sailed. Any major retailer who wants to know your business can and does. Amazon now knows me better than my family members do. Kroger keeps track of what I buy and sends me targeted coupons in the mail. And, speaking of Target, about a year ago, the story broke that the store could know a woman was pregnant before her family members did. Check out the weird story here:

    Some of it is kind of creepy. On the other hand, I’d love to get hold of the reader habits they’ve collected. So far, they’ve shared nothing with me.


  4. I read your posts and rarely comment. So let me say you’re doing a great job of posting daily (something I could never do.) I wasn’t aware of this issue. I decided long ago that if I wanted a presence on the web I’d have to accept the dangers along with the delights. But this is another issue.

    These machines should come with an explanation of the information that you’ve mentioned and a clear description of how to opt out. There’s more than enough marketing involved in whose book becomes a best seller and whose ends up in the (real or virtual) remainder bin.

    As you say, Stacey, I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder when I’m reading. It’s supposed to be a solitary experience, or at least, a one-to-one relationship between reader and author.

    I object to being tracked when I’m off-line.

    Happily, try as they might, book sellers will never know what the next big thing is, any more than film producers do. You can’t predict art. HA!


  5. Robin Yaklin says:

    I use the Kindle program on an iPad and haven’t really seen the similarities or differences; however, that said, I can say that the experience has been enjoyable so far. This summer while traveling an e-book on my pad was compact and combined with the pad that we used for information so there’s convenience. Currently, I’m using e-books for a study of craft. I’m able to highlight, say use of internal dialog, make my notes, and organize those notes. I wouldn’t do that on a good hardback. In fact, I’ve been known to hit the bargain bookstore to buy paperbacks for my studies. That’s a savings, both physical space and money. In a non-fiction work, recently chosen by my book club, the shared highlights appeared. Kinda interesting to see what others note. It doesn’t stop me from reading or making my own notes and I do get a sense of ‘community’ from them. As far as the ‘big brother’ aspect goes, don’t much care for that. What’s difficult to understand is: why? The book gets published, the store offers to sell it, the reader buys it. The money has changed hands and isn’t going backward. That’s the same as it is now. Can stores track my reading habits? They are able to do that via the old-fashioned store receipts that print the name of the book. Do they deserve to find ways to be more efficient and profitable and stay in business? Yep. Does it rock our creative world to the bones? Yep. Will my thinking on all this change as we go? Yep. So, there’s my two cents, so far.


  6. jbrayweber says:

    Nina is right. For years now, big businesses have been tracking you. Targeted coupons can be handy. But buying habits can be invasive. As an example, if you buy junk food, cigarettes, alcohol, this information can be used against you in your health insurance premiums.

    But we won’t go there.

    Great post, Stacey!


  7. This is very big brotherish, and I don’t like my information being colleccted without my permission. Quite frankly, Amazon hardly ever gives me good recommendations based on my buying habits. I can’t see how this will help.


  8. Pam says:

    They aren’t tracking YOU in the way that it is you they’re tracking. They take no personal data. No one is sitting in an office saying Pam stopped reading at line 33! Google, Yahoo, and other big companies track you in a more personal way.


  9. There should be opt in/opt out permissions. However, you should keep in mind that the data they collect is aggregated. This is how survey information is collected. Their interest is in how certain segments of their target markets consume products or services – not in how one individual’s purchasing/usage habits. (I spent 10 years in corporate marketing.)


  10. Taking into account the many years I fought against it, I have to now confess the acceptance that Privacy – as we once knew it – is a dead thing.

    Every click on the computer is logged somewhere. Every purchase made online is logged, either on the hard drive or a server somewhere. An average email (as an example, I send an email to Stacey or Nina or Jenn, all of us being in roughly the same area) goes through a *minimum* of five different servers before it is received. That is a total of SEVEN copies: my computer, Servers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and finally Recipient.

    Do a quick search on “Anti-Forensics” these days. More and more programs are being written and developed to hide what is on a computer or what that computer is used for. Not that these particular users are doing anything negative or illegal, it is a matter of personal privacy.


  11. pibarrington says:

    The most primitive version of this was the bar code. Now there are the new codes you scan with your mobile. I think it’s just the current process of tracking you. I’d love to have the links of these privacy programs…


  12. Okay, so if it’s here to stay how can we as authors benefit from it?
    Sure the book is out, but what about the next book? and the one after that.
    A lot of information can be gathered and if shared, could help authors better market their books.
    Like the “these books were bought when so and so bought your book”… good to know.
    You are writing to please readers, because they are the ones paying for your books. There is nothing wrong with it – to do otherwise could be career suicide.
    If people put my book down in the middle, guess that means I need to strengthen it, on a certain chapter, maybe I need to watch my tension. All feedback I can take to the next book.
    But as of now, we aren’t getting that info. It’s going to advertisers I suppose.
    I’ve asked my publisher for years to give me demographics on my readers, or at least tell me if I do a chat on a certain day, did my sales spike that day and the few days following?
    So much info is out there and we’re not getting much of it.
    Just saying I’m open to listening.


  13. I have downloaded so many books into my Kindle Cloud and computer…but haven’t read very many. Thankfully I have a huge selection of print books…including Ancient Whispers! I also found out that they are tracking our online behavior…we were searching for a cap for a water storage and then…it showed up as an ad in Facebook! I am feeling invaded. I love to hold a book when I read it and I do reread books.I love holding a book and being in my quiet space while reading, so they will never go out of style for me 🙂


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