Looking at the Cloud (from Both Sides Now)
February 20, 2012 § 6 Comments
We were recently reminded by several speakers at the If Book Then conference in Milan and again at Tools of Change, that there are new technologies now coming into broader use and applicability that allow for much richer data mining of reader behavior. Up until now, the ability to track when e-reading devices are being used, how much time is being spent on entire books and sections within the books, whether readers are finishing the book and other data has been limited to device manufacturers who typically have shared only very limited data with publishers. The benefits of mining this data could be very important for acquisition editors, marketing departments and to senior management in making decisions about what and how to publish.
For example (one provided by Mike Shatzkin at the Milan conference), knowing that readers are reading an author’s first novel straight through without breaks might suggest that further acquisitions from that author might be in order…even ahead of knowing sales figures for the book. Another example, and perhaps more compelling, is for non-fiction publishers (and particularly those in educational publishing) to know which chapters are garnering the most attention, suggesting areas of emphasis for future titles or perhaps ‘chunking’ out those sections for separate sales. If you let your imagination wander a little, you can think of a number of similar examples that could be valuable in planning and executing a publishing program.
With cloud-based reading rapidly becoming a reality, it will be possible for publishers to track this data themselves if they choose to operate (or outsource on the right terms) their own cloud readers. Obviously having one’s own data allows for richer mining to produce, presumably, better results. Such clouds could be ‘built’ by publishers but are more likely, in our opinion, to be licensed from third-party ‘white label’ providers. We are aware of at least one company, 24 Symbols, that is already beginning to license such a service.
We’ve long argued that data is critical in driving successful publishers and will be even more so in the future. The developments discussed in this post bear following. The reality isn’t that far away.
We’ll leave you with one open question: How will readers respond?