What Book Publishers Can Glean From Reading Behavior Data
Before the emergence of the ebook, data about in-book reading behavior was not easily available to publishers. With ereaders and reading apps, though, reading habits can be captured and analyzed on a large scale, tracking how quickly readers complete books and where they lose interest. Yet few publishers are using this behavioral data to inform their decision making. "Reading behavior data is probably actionable in some business models, and it might actually be actionable for us," says Jim Hanas director of audience development at HarperCollins, "But we're not there yet." Dan Lubart, SVP of strategy and publishing operations at Hachette, agrees, "I'm interested in that data. I think there are ways that I could use that if I had a better pool of data to work with, but it's not something I'm involved with yet."
Despite the lack of widespread adoption, technology providers are pushing for publishers to consider the value of in-book reading data. This year ebook retailer Kobo launched an ebook data service, allowing publishers to see which of their books were purchased from Kobo and how they were engaged with. Kobo tracks where readers drop off in a book, how quickly they complete it, and when they actually sit down to read.
"We help publishers by saying, 'This book is halfway down your list but it's being read faster than your bestsellers. Maybe you should put some PR and social behind it,'" explains David Anderson, VP of vendor management at Kobo.
Ereading solution provider Bluefire Productions can provide similar data by building proprietary reading apps that track reading behavior. "What's interesting about that," says Bluefire CEO Micah Bowers, "Is that publishers traditionally haven't thought about content after they publish it. It's a new way of thinking for publishers to start looking at how this content is actually being used."
Kobo compares its reading behavior data across all of its titles, providing publishers benchmarks of what kinds of engagement and sales they should expect in romance vs. nonfiction, for example. "A lot of books do perform as expected and follow industry averages," says Anderson, "But we want to show publishers the exceptions to this rule, the books that are being highly engaged with but are undersold. That is how you can create the next Fifty Shades of Grey or the next Harry Potter. Kobo's data can help publishers find their next blockbuster."
Related story: The Book Industry’s Quest for Data Intelligence