The Future of the Ebook

Amazon Knows How Many Times You Read that Sex Scene, You Pervert

Alarming thought, right?
romancebook Amazon Knows How Many Times You Read that Sex Scene, You Pervert

JEFF BEZOS KNOWS.

It’s a common refrain (one that’ll be especially familiar to, let’s say, romance fans): Hey, isn’t it great that, once you get a Kindle/Nook/iPad, no one can see what you’re reading? Now we’re forever free from those awkward subway moments when we pull out our trashy novel and realize it’s a little too lurid for the L train on a Saturday night.

Well, a bit of bad news for the bookish and private. The Wall Street Journal would like you to know that whoever sold you that ebook–whether it’s Amazon, Apple, or whoever–actually is paying attention to what you read. For one thing, maybe be careful what you highlight?

“Amazon can identify which passages of digital books are popular with readers, and shares some of this data publicly on its website through features such as its “most highlighted passages” list.”

Oh, but it gets even more datalicious. Over to the Nook:

“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.”

To be fair, Barnes and Noble is studying batches of readers rather than individuals. But we’re still a little unnerved by the thought of an all-seeing digital eye keeping tabs on our progress through that doorstop of a Steve Jobs bio.

Also please dear sweet merciful Jesus do not start trying to recapture our attention using multimedia in our ebooks:

“Pinpointing the moment when readers get bored could also help publishers create splashier digital editions by adding a video, a Web link or other multimedia features, Mr. Hilt says. Publishers might be able to determine when interest in a fiction series is flagging if readers who bought and finished the first two books quickly suddenly slow down or quit reading later books in the series.”

Sometimes when we put a novel down it’s because the damn thing got boring. 

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com