Last week I read an interesting article about the data collected by e-readers. Unknown to most readers these electronic devices collect a vast amount of information about the way we read books. This data could be analysed and displayed alongside a book to help the reader make purchasing decisions, or used by publishers to create books that are more engaging. I am fascinated by this and wonder if the publishers of the future are likely to embrace this new data.
With the huge increase in books available, mainly fueled by the rise of self publishing, I wonder if statistics could become the new gatekeepers?
Could this be the blurb of the future?
Average Reading Time
Without the ability to flick through a physical copy it is difficult to judge how long a book is. Knowing the average length of time taken to complete a book would be a useful addition to the blurb.
Percentage of Readers who Complete the Book
Knowing how many people complete a specific book would also be of interest to me, although this would have to be viewed in conjunction with ratings data. A low completion rate could indicate complexity or books that divide opinion and so would not necessarily be an indication of quality.
Average Number of Reader Highlights
This would be one of the best indications of quality. Outstanding books have an enormous number of different quotes that could be highlighted, whereas good reads that are for entertainment alone may not have an individual passage that stands out.
Average Reading Pace
I’d find a graph of average reading pace very useful. I enjoy both slow, complex reads and fast entertaining ones, but need to be in the right mood for each. Some books are marketed in a confusing way and the reading pace is not always obvious from the cover. It would mean that I’d never end up trying to understand complex theories on public transport again!
It would also be useful to know whether the pace of the book increases towards the end or remains slow throughout. Some books have slow opening chapters (as they develop the characters and the setting), but suddenly increase in pace later on. Knowing when this cliff-hanger occurs can be helpful.
Other statistics like the average number of different sittings the book is read in, or the percentage of people who go on to buy other books from the same author, would also be interesting, but I don’t think they’d have any influence on my book purchasing decisions.
Publishers could benefit too
Publishers could study this data to discover more about the way we interact with books. Before publication they could find the point at which most readers abandon a certain book and edit that section to make it more engaging. They could also mine the information to discover the chain of events that lead customers to buy more books from the author.
Consumer feedback has been used by film and television companies for years, but this is a completely new development in the field of publishing. It may prove useless in the unpredictable world of literary fiction, but if it can be used to improve profitability in commercial fiction then there’ll be more money available to take risks in other areas. I think that analysis of reader behaviour can only be of use to the industry,
Would you like to see statistics about the books you are thinking of purchasing?
Do you think publishers could benefit from mining this reader data?