eBooks May Track Reading Habits


Historically solitude was an essential component of reading, with many children becoming readers in part to enjoy the privacy it offers. By 2104 when we had become accustomed to the possibility that emails and Facebook posts could be surveiled by government security agencies, reading physical books continued to maintain that privacy. However, it became evident that reading eBooks was a less private experience, at least from the marketing point of view. On December 10, 2014 Alison Flood published an article in The Guardian entitled "Ebooks can tell which novels you didn't finish." in which she reported that ebook retailers could tell which books were finished or not finished, how fast they were read, and precisely where readers stopped reading a particular ebook and moved on to something else. According to her article, only 44.4 percent of British readers who used a Kobo eReader made it all the way through Donna Tartt’s international bestselling Pulitizer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch, while a mere 28.2 percent reached the end of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave (1853), from which the Oscar winning film was adapted. Yet both these books appeared—and remained for some time—on the British bestseller lists.

 “After collecting data between January and November 2014 from more than 21m[illion] users, in countries including Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, Kobo found that its most completed book of 2014 in the UK was not a Man Booker or Baileys prize winner. Instead, readers were most keen to finish Casey Kelleher’s self-published thriller Rotten to the Core, which doesn’t even feature on the overall bestseller list…Kobo also revealed that the people of Britain were most likely to finish a romance novel, with 62% completion, followed by crime and thrillers (61%) and fantasy (60%). Italians were also most engaged by romance (74% completion), while the French preferred mysteries, with 70% completion.”

“A book’s position on the bestseller list may indicate it’s bought, but that isn’t the same as it being read or finished,” said Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer at Kobo. “A lot of readers have multiple novels on the go at any given time, which means they may not always read one book from start to finish before jumping into the next great story. People may wait days, months, or even until the following year to finish certain titles. And many exercise that inalienable reader’s right to set down a book if it doesn’t hold their interest.”

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