How far, how fast and how often do you read?


Lots of people already know the answer to the question posed in the title.

I saw an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal the other day about the reading habits of people who use ereaders.

The article entitled Your E-Book is Reading You  makes the case that we can now know more about a person’s reading habits than ever before, not just which books sell the most copies, but also things like how far people read before they stop, how many finish which books, which genres dictate which reading habits, etc.

This is totally fascinating stuff for book sellers, publishers, authors and readers.

As the article put it:

In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.

For instance, Barnes and Noble through its Nook reader is compiling enormous amounts of data about the reading habits of Nook users.

So what?

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.

Just think about it.  If a publisher knows what type of books best hold readers’ attention, they can use this information to give their authors specific instructions about how to structure their books.

Would authors prefer to know how far readers go in their stories before they quit?

Here’s what best-selling author Scott Turow said about that prospect.

Scott Turow

Novelist Scott Turow says he’s long been frustrated by the industry’s failure to study its customer base. “I once had an argument with one of my publishers when I said, ‘I’ve been publishing with you for a long time and you still don’t know who buys my books,’ and he said, ‘Well, nobody in publishing knows that,’ ” says Mr. Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “If you can find out that a book is too long and you’ve got to be more rigorous in cutting, personally I’d love to get the information.”

Other companies are using book analytics to give readers a variety of choices in how a particular story develops.  Coliloquy, for instance, uses complicated algorithms which allow readers to make choices of story options.  If the reader says he wants Character A killed off, then the reader sees that version of the story from the author.  If Character A survives and meets Love Interest B, another path emerges, and so on.

But let’s forget about all that data for a minute and conduct our own poll.

How far, how fast and how often do you read?  How many pages do you give a book before you quit reading it?  Do you read fiction books differently from non-fiction? Do you read some genres fast and other at a more deliberate pace?




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