In the short New York Times article, “Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read,” Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell examine Jellybooks, an analytics company that specializes in tracking reader behaviour with e-books. The big e-book retailers like Amazon already use this sort of technology in their e-readers, Alter and Russell explain. Publishers without their own specific e-readers have, until now, not been able to compete with this sort of data-driven marketing. Through consensual reading trials, Jellybooks can provide publishers with statistics regarding how many readers finished a certain book, how far into the book they got, what the pace of their reading was, et cetera. In turn, publishers can use this data to support their decision making around print runs and marketing techniques.
Alter and Russell do highlight why this sort of reader/user analysis is troubling: it could skew publisher support of a book series in progress; it could result in uncomfortable editorial suggestions; it could lead to increasingly sophisticated and subtle user tracking. But ultimately, they suggest that user data analysis is a train that will keep on rolling, regardless of author or reader concerns. Best to get used to it, say Alter and Russell.
Alter, Alexandra, and Karl Russell. 2016. “Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read.” The New York Times, 14 March 2016. New York.