The Netflix of e-books has arrived.
Scribd and Oyster are each offering a service that lets subscribers choose from an extensive library of books for a monthly fee of about $10. But what’s really notable is that they track readers’ patterns as they’re reading a book and will share that anonymous information with writers. That could help writers better tailor titles to their fans.
Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.
This business model and this use of reader data are untested. Do you really want a company tracking your reading habits and sharing them with others? The Times says that Amazon and Barnes & Noble also gather information about those who use their e-readers, but keep that data to themselves.
(The Times says Kindle owners who have Amazon Prime can borrow books, but it’s not quite like the new services. “The program has had limited impact because users can borrow only one book at a time, and it offers few best-sellers,” the Times adds.)
What about the impact on a writer’s process? “If you aren’t careful, you could narrow your creativity. You won’t take risks,” Quinn Loftis, a young-adult novelist told the Times. “But the bigger risk is not giving the reader what she wants. I’ll take all the data I can get.”
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