Friday, July 6, 2012

My eReader is judging me for not finishing "The Mill on the Floss".

If you have a Kindle, you may already have been aware of what the Guardian reported this week: ereader companies are collecting information on your reading habits.

Knowing which passages prompt a book to be thrown aside, which books are read at high speed and which are dipped in and out of is likely to be even more useful, and Humphrey believes this knowledge could eventually affect what's published.
As mentioned in the article, ebooksellers have yet to use or sell the information. Also, while it's not discussed in the article, the data that they can collect only pertains to the sellers' proprietary books-- if you have PDF files on your Kindle or Nook, for example, they are not tracking which items you have and where you leave off in those documents.

It's not the first time that reading habits have been studied without readers' knowing it. In recent memory, the Patriot Act was passed to allow federal agents to track public library users. The Guardian article goes so far as to cite the ever-popular Big Brother of Orwell's 1984 when describing insidious data tracking. Some people-- including some booksellers-- are coming out strongly against collecting reader data as an invasion of privacy. Others-- perhaps very interestingly the publishers-- see the data for its possibilities in improving the market for the reader. If people are buying one book and stopping a quarter of the way through, in the future a publishing house might reconsider purchasing another book from that same author. From another side, authors might fear this kind of data tracking-- if a threshold number of people aren't reading the book all the wall through, their publishing deals might be in jeopardy-- or welcome it, if the data can better direct their editing to better please their audience.

How do you feel knowing that Amazon and other ebooksellers are aggregating data about your reading habits? How do you see this kind of information being used in the future?

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