Thanks to new e-publishing technology introduced by the International Digital Publishing Forum, a global trade and standards organization, several top publishing companies now have the ability to track the activities of their e-book customers.
Here’s how it works: You read a book on your Nook, and your e-readers send data about your habits (how long you spend reading a page, section areas that you highlight, etc.) back to Barnes and Noble.
Exact user data has not been made available yet, but publishers have shared a few details about user information with The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news last week:
Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books…
…Pinpointing the moment when readers get bored could also help publishers create splashier digital editions by adding a video, a Web link or other multimedia features, Mr. Hilt says. Publishers might be able to determine when interest in a fiction series is flagging if readers who bought and finished the first two books quickly suddenly slow down or quit reading later books in the series.
The news of the e-book spying has lit of the writing blogosphere. One good post comes from Publishers Weekly’s Josie Leavitt article “Another Reason Not to Get an E-Reader.” Here is a sample:
What passages people choose to highlight in a book is also an available aggregate. This to me is the most chilling. What I choose to underline in a text is between me and the book. Margin notes that are typed in your e-reader are also researchable. Wow. So, what I write in my own book is now fodder for the number crunchers at Amazon? Am I the only one who thinks this is a very slippery slope of invasion of privacy and free speech?
Surely, traditional print advocate Nicholas Carr (if you haven’t heard of Carr, see here) will write a post on this e-book news soon, and we’ll wait anxiously for his take on the issue. In the meantime, what do you think? What does this recent development mean for the future of e-reading?