E-books Change Everything

Ok. Let’s talk about e-books.

Why readers read what they do has always been a mystery for publishers and retailers. E-books and the current growth of exploration into “Big Data” is changing this. E-books are essentially reading you as you read them. They are collecting data about how long it takes you to read- be it the whole book or a page-, what sentences you highlight, your reading habits- what time you read, what kind of books you like to read, If you binge on a book or consume it slowly throughout a month-, what books you don’t finish, and so forth… This perhaps has scarier implications with the recent Snowden NSA leaks, and privacy laws will have to play catch up as this technology and information keeps advancing, but all this ‘big brother’ worries being said, the potential implications of this are fascinating.

Publishers can now go directly to writers and let them know specific details about how readers are reading their books. If a large amount of readers give up around a certain section or perhaps stop reading the book for quite a while when coming to it, the author will know to steer away from the style adopted in that section in the future. Also a lot of information has already come to life about book-bingeing. Especially with current popular series like The Hunger Games of Game of Thrones (see above link).

Netflixx has already begun to show us our tendency for bingeing on entertainment and we can be sure that thousands of researchers are now turning their pens and questionnaires in that direction. We, of course, have begun to see “Netflixx for books” software and companies beginning to pop up. It’ll be interesting to see if they become contenders for producing original content like Netflixx has. Amazon is already stepping around publishers to produce this more direct connection between reader and author. (Amazon is potentially worrying when it comes to ‘big data’ on ebooks because they sell lots of other products as well. Typically companies have only marketed materials to you that come in the same form of material as the one you originally bought, with Amazon we could see the rise of cross material promotion, advertising sci-fi movies, shows and models based on your interest in sci-fi books).

So where am I going with this hodge podge of ideas? I think that reader’s tendency to binge on E-books, the big data collected about certain readers, and the rise of technology that makes accessing such books easier and quicker will result in the comeback of serialized novels and stories. Just like comic books storylines are currently released in small issues for weekly readers and then, if popular enough, bonded together in volumes, soon we will see publishers and authors experimenting with releasing biweekly chapters of a novel or some such format.

Why? Well lots of reasons. Such a format works for readers because they get more choice about how to consume their literature, also they get a constant flow of it and don’t have to suffer wait times in between (looking at you G.R.R.), and it gives them a story they can actively interact with other people about, much like tv shows become water cooler conversation or social media chatter the day after or during release. The format benefits publishers or retailers because it allows them to have a more captivate audience base, see real time responses and interactions on social media, and also make it easier to judge success of the work and make changes- it would be great for testing new writers.

Comic book publishers have been doing this for decades. One of the reasons this idea was never that attractive to novel readers is due to the fetishism of the book as a complete item, but with the rise of e-books and generations who are more comfortable reading short online articles rather than books, such an idea seems more probable.

‘Netflixx for books’ companies would be well-placed to start producing such content. Hopefully as well they can also keep up Netflixx’s attractive values as a company of lack of advertisement, incredibly loose restrictions on how users use their account, and low costs (and awesome customer service).

And lastly, because I am a library student and this is a library blog, I will input here my often repeated plea that libraries should get in on all this. That we should start looking at producing original content and helping local writers. We keep sitting on the sidelines and we will get passed by.


About Ryan Regier

Doing Library Stuff. Follow me on twitter at: @ryregier
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3 Responses to E-books Change Everything

  1. symplysilent says:

    Interesting. I have a deep and abiding mistrust for data collection, because I see the possibilities of both subtle and strong-armed opportunities for the data holders to influence or control the data providers. On the other hand, if, as a writer, I can get feedback on how a reader is perceiving my story, I wonder if I would see it differently? Or…would I be stubborn enough to just keep writing? Thank you, Silent

  2. Ryan says:

    Your point for mistrusting data collection is a good one. With a better info base about what readers want it might result in book authors loosing a lot of the autonomy they have over their works. Publishers might begin to have a bigger influence over what gets actually put out. (Honestly I think we will start to see more advertising in ebooks as well as time goes on)

    But yah, as a writer this creates an interesting issue. Are you writing to create an artwork? Or for yourself? Or for your fans? There’s been worries lately about the influence of fan culture on art creation. That it kinda of skews creators to producing what a majority of fans want instead of what the author might thinks is better.

    This might all just be doom and gloom though. What could happen is it allows authors to carve out small niches instead of playing to the majority. Also not everybody wants exactly what they want to happen in a story to happen. A lot of tv and novels make their living off being able to surprise people now.

    But yah….I could write a whole nother blog post about this stuff. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Pingback: The Precedings of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies Annual Conference: 2014 – OR – FIMS Con 2014 | Call No. of Cthulhu

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