The latest things to start grassing you up to advertising companies and spooks are your favourite books.
So not only will you have to put up with the fact that you are paying huge amounts of dosh for something that takes a few dollars to make, it will be ratting you out to the authorities and advertising companies.
Last week, Smashwords made a deal to put 225,000 books on Scribd, a digital library here that unveiled a reading subscription service in October.
It is being seen as a way to exploit reading data. Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it in house. Now a new breed of start-ups, such as Entitle want to make cash by telling the world+dog.
The justification is that the data will help authors and publishers make better books, but the reality is more sinister.
Not only will it mean that readers of a book on cars will get plagued by car adverts for months afterwards, it also means that reader habits will be closely monitored by the publishing companies.
For example, they will know if you ever finished a book. That will lead to an obvious conclusion that some books sell better than others, or are more engaging. This will, in turn, lead to publishers wanting the sorts of books that they think readers are more likely to finish.
This same mentality has plagued the ratings obsessed television industry and led to the cancellation of great shows like Firefly and Alphas.
For example, Scribd’s early efforts have revealed that the longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who did it. Thus if you want to wrote a murder mystery you have to keep it short.
People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but will only read a chapter of a yoga book. Romances are read faster than religious titles, and erotica really quickly.
The top book at Oyster is called “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind”. Everyone who starts it finishes it. However Arthur Schlesinger “The Cycles of American History” is only finished by one percent of the readers who start it.
So what publisher is going to invest in something that only a small percentage are going to get to the end of?
The Oyster data shows that books with shorter chapters do better because people are reading in short sessions during the day on smart phones.