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Your Ebook Reader Knows What You Did
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Did you know that your e-reader is snooping on you? It's true, according to the Wall Street Journal article,Your E-Book Is Reading You .

Barnes & Noble, which accounts for 25% to 30% of the e-book market through its Nook e-reader, has recently started studying customers' digital reading behavior. Data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books. Jim Hilt, the company's vice president of e-books, says the company is starting to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people's attention.

Do authors really want that? Do readers want it?

At first glance it seems like a good idea. I write to be read. I don't write for myself. So I want readers to be engaged by my words and to enjoy the stories I write. To this end Mary and I have learned to take into account reader preferences which might clash with our own, like the modern desire for books to move faster than was the norm back in the Golden Age of mysteries.

But although we gladly compromise, ultimately we write books that suit our own tastes, eccentric though they might be. Which is the way most authors have always done it. Now, though, according to the article, things are going to change.

Publishing has lagged far behind the rest of the entertainment industry when it comes to measuring consumers' tastes and habits. TV producers relentlessly test new shows through focus groups; movie studios run films through a battery of tests and retool them based on viewers' reactions.

Is that good? To me the beauty of a novel is that unlike most movies or television shows it is work of an individual, not a committee. A novel gives one person's view of the world, allows me to experience another's sensibilities and thinking and perspective. Most authors probably don't like the idea of having readers dictate their books, but more importantly, readers shouldn't want to shape the books they read either.

I already know what I like, how I'd tell a story and end it. But if I'm reading a Travis McGee mystery I want to step out of my world and into John D. MacDonald's. When I open a novel I want to spend time with the author, not look at myself in the mirror.

No doubt the day is coming when the big publishers, in search of big profits, will require all their books to be engineered to maximize sales. The marketing departments will do as much writing as the authors. Thank goodness for smaller publishers and the Internet!

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