E-readers and e-book platforms track users' activity, says a new study
A new study shows that many major e-readers and e-book platforms track book searches, monitor what readers download, and can share information without a customer agreeing first. Is this the next step in satisfying consumers, or a little too Big Brother?
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For example, analysis of e-reader data has already determined that it takes the average reader just seven hours to finish the final book in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy on a Kobo e-reader, about 57 pages per hour. And on the Nook, the first thing folks do after finishing the first “Hunger Games” book is to download the next one.Skip to next paragraph
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That extends to all popular series – readers tend to “tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel,” according to the WSJ.
Among the other findings, nonfiction books “tend to be read in fits and starts,” while novels are read straight through. Long nonfiction tends to be abandoned earlier, while science fiction, romance, and crime fiction fans read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction.
Retailers and publishers are beginning to analyze this information to better understand how readers engage with books and how to reach out to those readers more effectively.
So here’s the question: is tracking this information so bad?
Privacy advocates think so, arguing that the tracking flies in the face of basic intellectual privacy.
Others note that we’ve already ceded control for how information is gathered and shared, and we don’t yet know how companies will use this information. Might folks who download books on terrorism or read Arab literature come under scrutiny of Homeland Security, as one German publication asked?
Some industry watchers, however, aren’t so concerned.
“This is information that I'm glad I know, but about which I'm afraid I can't get all that exercised,” wrote a blogger with the UK’s Guardian. “I feel there are bigger things to worry about than whether Kobo knows what page of Fifty Shades (no, not really) I'm currently on... And if... it means these companies can better point me towards things I might like, then I'm not complaining.”
We’re curious to hear what you think. Is this a little too Orwellian for you? Or is the book industry simply catching up with what the entertainment industry has done for decades, tracking consumer tastes and preferences?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.