Barnes & Noble, Amazon Know Which Sections Of Fifty Shades Of Grey You’re Reading Over And Over

While anyone with a Kindle or Nook knows they can download e-books from the Internet, not everyone is mindful of the fact that they are also sending information back to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or Google, or Apple). It’s not just so that you can switch between your e-reader, laptop, phone and tablet without losing your bookmarks and notes; it’s also so that these e-book sellers can share this information with the publishers of the books you’re reading.

From the Wall Street Journal:

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.

So publishers know the obvious things — that readers are more likely to bail out on lengthy, complicated books than they are on shorter, frothy titles. But they also know how quickly people read books, how long people wait between buying a title before they actually read it, which kinds of titles people are likely to buy and/or read after finishing that book, and even things like which sections of a book are most frequently highlighted.

Books have been sold for centuries, but this is the first time that any of this sort of analytic data has been available. In fact, Hilt tells the Journal, B&N has “more data than we can use.”

E-book sellers and publishers both stress that the information being shared is not tied to any individual reader. Rather, it’s much like the data available to publishers of websites, who can see which pages, topics, headlines and layouts drive the most traffic and retain the most readers.

The question remains — what will publishers do with this information?

E-readers only continue to grow in popularity, especially when you throw in the number of people who use iPads and other tablets for reading e-books. Depending on what publishers learn from the data we’re sending back to them every time you click to the next page, the industry could be in for some huge changes in just the next few years.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Boiled for your sins says:

    Just what the world needs… more poorly written pseudo-porn.

  2. ninabi says:

    Maybe publishers will offer a cheap download called “the good stuff”. Pages 77-82, 147-153, and page 188 will be available for $1.99.

  3. Rexy on a rampage says:

    Anyone else see a pair of boobs being grabbed in the picture at first glance?

    • Applekid says:

      The boobs of a headless girl? Yep. The first thought was actually “why does she not have a head” and then “why is she grabbing her boobs instead of getting help” and then “what does this have to do with books” and, finally, “won’t let me post without a picture” before the clarified reality of it all sank in.

    • BigDragon says:

      First thing in my mind was that it’s a furry reading a porn book….how clever!

  4. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    Whuuuaaat??! Now everyone knows where the “dog-eared” pages are in my eBook? No! :O

    On a side note, I rarely bookmark pages in my eBooks so far — since they conveniently open up to the last read page anyway, and I never had the need to go back and re-read several chapters.

    • delicatedisarray says:

      Yeah, the only one I’ve “dog-eared” in was a book on cheap, but award winning, wines. I “dog-eared” the ones I wanted to try.

  5. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    “create books” – that irks me. i don’t want books written with my demographic in mind or artfully designed to appeal to people of a certain mindset. i want books that an author wrote because they had a story to tell.
    i enjoy the diversity in writing styles between different authors.
    i’m pretty much glad at this point that i was born in a time when paper books still exist and are the primary means of publication. not just because of this but i want to hold books and turn pages and not worry about battery life or DRM

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I guess I should have read the comments before commenting!

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      As a writer who is trying to get in there, I thank you for this. That was my first thought when I read the post, “Do I have to now write to these specs in order to sell a book?” The things that sell the most copies aren’t always the most intelligent or best written. The potboilers and porny stuff has its place, but I also like books that aren’t just froth.

    • TheUncleBob says:

      On the flip side to this – the digital age has allowed virtually anyone to be an author – writing on whatever subject they please and distributing it virtually free on the Internet.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i am aware of this as i have experience with a copyright infringement issue where i write something and share it online for free and someone has [or still is, not sure] sold it as an ebook

    • Draw2much says:

      Ugh. I agree. I want people to write stories they LOVE not stories that are “guaranteed to sell” based on some method or other. :(

  6. frank64 says:

    It will do to books what Clear Channel did the radio.

    Good thing e-books should also allow for the old guard of publishers to be circumvented, like internet radio.

  7. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think writers should be in charge of what goes into books, not publishers.

    I don’t want books’ content o be determined by people who don’t know anything about writing, and only want to make money off the book.

    • blueman says:

      This has gone on since long before e-books. Most publishers are most interested in books that will sell, not books that meet your (or my) literary standards.

      Just as, in a perfect world, movie studios would make movies that tell great stories, make great art, etc. But mostly they want blockbusters that will put fat asses in seats and sell a lot of popcorn and soda.

  8. who? says:

    Earlier this week, my work started intercepting and decryping all of my “secure” web connections. Gmail, home banking, they can get into all of it now.

    Now I find out that my kindle is spying on me.

    I’m totally creeped out.

    • frank64 says:

      They can read what you email on your personal account? That is the same as listening in on your phone calls.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Which is 100% legal in the workplace, because people have been saying for decades that it would “never happen” and that we “don’t need to worry about it.”

        • incident_man says:

          Yeah, it amazes me to no end how my work colleagues will log into their Facebook, bank accounts, personal emails, etc while on their work computers, KNOWING full well that the company monitors their computer use and employs keylogging measures.

          Granted I really don’t have anything damning I need to hide, but there’s no sense in willingly giving them the information. It’s kinda like nailing a key to your house’s front door to the doorjamb beside the lock outside the house.

    • Kate Blue says:

      Decrypting? Is that legal?

    • I look at both sides of the story says:

      “Earlier this week, my work started intercepting and decryping all of my “secure” web connections. Gmail, home banking, they can get into all of it now.”

      How do they decrypt a SSL connection?

      As a side note, since work phone calls can be legally listened into, (almost) everyone uses their personal cell phones to make non-work related calls. If you want to keep private stuff private, don’t use work equipment.

      • sqlrob says:

        Man in the middle attack. They push a new root certificate to your machine, and then intercept new SSL connections and generate certificates on the fly.

        You can avoid this by watching for cert changes. The apps I’ve written that use SSL also are immune to this, as they expect particular certificates.

        • I look at both sides of the story says:

          “Man in the middle attack. They push a new root certificate to your machine, and then intercept new SSL connections and generate certificates on the fly.”

          Thank you for the info. I never would have thought of that technique.

    • MikeVx says:

      Given that I’ve never heard of a company that did not outright forbid personal use of company resources, I’d bet they are hunting for evidence to use against violators, and since most companies use Windows systems for end-users pretty much exclusively, you should not be using them for anything meant to be secure, policy or not.

      • GrimJack says:

        Really? Every company I’ve ever worked for had a ‘reasonable personal usage’ policy for phone, computer, internet, etc, etc. – and when I was the head of information security at one of them, I had to help determine what was ‘reasonable’. Of course, these were all dotcom type companies, so maybe things were more lenient on the technology/creative side…

        Currently working for myself and monitoring my own personal internet usage, just waiting to fire myself for abusing my company policies…

  9. AntiNeutral says:

    Suddenly, land-line phones, snail mail and paying cash are not obsolete notions; they are the new best way to maintain a degree of privacy. Can these guys turn on my microphone and camera too? Can the tell which part of the book I DO NOT like? Privacy… you dreamer you.
    Just FYI, THIS page you are on at the Consumerist site, has 8 web bugs on it: 24/7 Media, ChartBeat, Facebook Connect, Google +1, Google Analytics, Reddit, StumbleUpon widgets and one called Twitter Button. Face it; everything you do online, including reading this comment, is observed, tagged and remembered for eternity.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I’ve put Ghostery on my computers to help block this. Someone here recommended it.

  10. Patriot says:

    And this is why I’ll be sticking to paperbacks for the foreseeable future. I don’t need some big corporation knowing all my reading habits.

    • I look at both sides of the story says:

      “And this is why I’ll be sticking to paperbacks for the foreseeable future. I don’t need some big corporation knowing all my reading habits.”

      If you’re really concerned about privacy, buy used books only from stores and garage sales that don’t have cameras. Pay only in cash.

  11. smo0 says:

    Dis B ain’t got S on Anne Rice.

    I haven’t read this book, I refuse to – my mother did (my mom is hardcore into romance novels) and even she was like “WEAK.”

    Just pick up some of Anne Rice’s stuff or when she wrote the “Sleeping Beauty” series under another pen name…. plug in the Hitachi Magic Wand – then get ready for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

    • Smiling says:

      I refuse to read it too. I did, however, just start the Beauty Series you mentioned.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      I have read Anne Rice’s “Beauty” series way before “50 Shades” came out. It was insanely good. For comparison I plan to read “50 Shades” in the near future and see how weak it’s gonna be (I still can’t put down my GoT series).

      I imagine it’s 50 shades more tame than “Beauty”. I would probably file “50 Shades” under “guilty pleasure” category, together with the Twilight series. :)

  12. DemosCat says:

    This already happens in the telecom business, for both landline and cell phone.

    While phone companies are obliged to protect what is call CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information) — for example, call detail records — and cannot share this information without your permission, information rolled up *in the aggregate* with personally identifying data removed is not protected, and is used to track trends, make projections, and target areas for product marketing.

    What is needed is for the sort of rules the telecoms must follow to be applied to data collected from e-books.

  13. kaleberg says:

    Yet another argument for stripping the DRM off your ebooks – reading privacy.

  14. smo0 says:
  15. SG-Cleve says:

    I am floored by this. I had no idea this tracking was going on.

    Apparently there is no way to opt out.

    Your entire reading history, bookmarks, highlights, and notes are stored online.

    The information about you is available by court order (or sometimes even without a court order).

    • DemosCat says:

      Court orders? We don’t need no stinking court orders!

    • I look at both sides of the story says:

      “I am floored by this. I had no idea this tracking was going on. ”

      Also realize that when you DVR a show or watch streaming video, everything you do is tracked. Remember Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”? The companies knew how many people (and the number of times) rewound to get that momentary glimpse of a nipple. Who’d think that millions of American’s would be astonished by such a earth-shattering event? This is the true value of tracking.

    • I look at both sides of the story says:

      “Apparently there is no way to opt out.

      Your entire reading history, bookmarks, highlights, and notes are stored online. ”

      I have a Kindle. Kindle makes it perfectly clear what information is stored on the servers and why — it’s for your benefit if you have multiple devices or your Kindle is lost/stolen/damaged.

      You CAN OPT-OUT of several of the information sharing portions but then again if you did and you lost a boat-load of notes, then you’ll complain that the Kindle sucks.

      This is not a secret conspiracy. Simply read the first few chapters of the Kindle Getting Started guide and it’s all spelled out.

  16. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    What about stuff you read that’s not a book? For example I have many PDF’s on my Kindle that are notes and stuff that I made myself.

  17. Press1forDialTone says:

    Drip, drip, drip as each drop of our privacy is transfused into the corporate hive-mind.

  18. MarkFL says:

    And so now literature will be subject to the same mass-pop-crapizaton that has ruined music, television and movies. Just see what everyone else is reading, and write a cookie-cutter novel to fit that — forget about being rebellious or inventive. Gee, I can’t wait until Simon Cowell launches his new tv show, “American Author,” where 12 writers write essentially the same book.

  19. MikeVx says:

    Any e-book reader that can receive books off the net directly will do this, and while you can ostensibly disable a lot of the features that use this connection, I don’t believe for an instant that they do not transmit all of that information upstream anyway.

    I have a Kindle, but at the time I bought it it was primarily intended to take advantage of the web browser so that I could look up odd bits of information on the go without paying AT&T $WAY_TOO_MUCH for a data plan. I have since picked up a smart phone on a new service that is in testing mode, and has little cost. I am not currently naming this service as they are on the edge of doing some extremely stupid things that have already chased off some of their testing base, and may cost them more yet if the actually do these things.

    My preferred reader these days is an Ectaco JetBook Lite. It uses SD cards, and the only way to connect it to a computer is with a USB cable, and it mounts as a disk drive. Apart from some supplied books that it comes with, I alone decide what lives on the device, no one can delete the contents by remote control, and no one can find out what I’m reading without stealing the device. Along with a copy of Calibre to convert those few formats the JBL cannot read, and I’m good to go with no tracking worries. For obvious reasons it is not great for much in the way of current best sellers, but there are a number of places to buy unrestricted e-books,as well as various public domain collections and fan-fiction sites. I am also plowing through this years Hugo nominees as I am eligible to vote and downloads are available to maximize informed readership. (You have to be eligible to vote to get them, no hole there.)

    Always remember that these net-connected devices are first and foremost sales and tracking devices, reading is at best a secondary function. Don’t like that? Stick to paper or be prepared to get an off-line reader and accept the limits that carries to preserve your privacy.

    If you are a fan of TV shows that have much in the way of a fanfic following, a number of fanfic sites now have EPUB download as an option.

  20. Blueskylaw says:

    The stupiding of the American public is alive and well and progressing according to plan.

    The new hit novel: Dancing with the Vampire Stars in 50 Shades of Grey.

    • DemosCat says:

      Quick, organize protesters outside the studio holding signs that say, “Vampires DO NOT Glitter”.