Big e-reader is watching you

Kindle commercial, "The Book Lives On"

“Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” That non-grammatical sentence — from Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy, is the most-highlighted passage ever on Kindle, with nearly 18,000 readers marking it. But you can bet Amazon is collecting much more interesting data about Kindle users than that.

The company isn’t willing to share such data with the Wall Street Journal, but Barnes & Noble and Kobo talk a bit about the types of data collection they’re doing in this piece. For instance, they can track where a reader stops reading an ebook. The article notes a few non-surprising results from Barnes & Noble: readers of genre fiction (romance, mystery, science fiction) read fast and finish books; “nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier.”

Jim Hilt, the company’s VP ebooks, says Barnes & Noble is in “the earliest stages of deep analytics” and has “more data than we can use,” but in some cases it’s making decisions based on the data:

Mr. Hilt says that when the data showed that Nook readers routinely quit long works of nonfiction, the company began looking for ways to engage readers in nonfiction and long-form journalism. They decided to launch “Nook Snaps,” short works on topics ranging from weight loss and religion to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

For now, Nook Snaps, Barnes & Noble’s e-singles section, remains B&N’s unimpressive competitor to Kindle Singles. Apparently, though, it’s an area Barnes & Noble wants to focus on.

Amazon, which is likely doing the most interesting and large-scale data collection and analysis of e-book readers, “declined to comment on how it analyzes and uses the Kindle data it gathers.” And from this piece, we learn that interactive fiction startup Coliloquy — the first app to be chosen for Amazon’s Kindle data developer program — can’t disclose sales figures because of an nondisclosure agreement with Amazon. That suggests that as Amazon starts adding more interactive reading apps to Kindle, it will keep the most interesting data it gleans close to the vest — while doling out “stats” like the non-surprise that people really like the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice, but even more than that, they like the Hunger Games.

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