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

January 31, 2013

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?

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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. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/11/e-reader-privacy-chart-2012-update

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