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OPLIN 4Cast #295: Data-driven publishing

Posted in 4cast

Ebook reading devices are basically specialized computers, which means they can do more than just display words on a screen. If you use an ebook reader, you know that you can highlight portions of books, share some parts with friends, organize your books into collections, and other computer-type activities. These are all nice features that make an ebook reader more useful. You may not know, however, that your reader/computer could be quietly gathering data about your reading habits. Such data is beginning to be used by some publishers for “data-driven” book publishing, which may be the wave of the future.

  • Your e-book is reading you (Wall Street Journal/Alexandra Alter)  “The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books.”
  • Do books need a beta version? Analytics for books pave the way (Fast Company/Sarah Kessler)  “For many publishers, it will be worth the $19 or $99 monthly fee per book, depending on number of readers, that Hiptype charges. Hiptype’s tool also acts on the information it collects. After it pinpoints what type of people are buying a book, it offers an option to buy Facebook ads that specifically target those demographics. Then, it uses click-through data from those ads to narrow down even more specifically what type of person is most likely to buy the book.”
  • Hiptype wants to be the Google Analytics for ebooks (paidContent/Laura Hazard Owen) “One possible concern is privacy. ‘We don’t want to discourage the conversation about privacy,’ [Hiptype CEO James] Levy said, noting that while all of the data Hiptype collects is anonymous, users can opt out completely. The company is also looking for ways it can improve its service for readers. In beta, end users have requested that Hiptype make its data available to them. For example, Levy said, a teacher could track how students are interacting with the books they’ve been assigned to read.”
  • Fifty shades of data (Infomart/James Levy guest blog)  “Publishing needs a little bit of that same DNA that encourages a ‘hacker’ culture, where data wins arguments. The publishers that figure this out will be tremendously successful and profitable, and the ones who don’t will go away. If book publishers had a way to capture relevant data about who is reading their books, how they interact with the books, and what persuades readers to buy a book or talk about a book to their friends, they’d be able to produce successful books instead of rolling the dice when they publish.”

Reading fact:
Here’s a sample of the kind of data ebook publishers are gathering: About a third of readers abandon an ebook by page 50, but 85% of those that make it that far will go on to read the next 50 pages. (So maybe ebook free samples should be 50 pages long?)