The Times - The Week - 14th July 2012
One of the joys of using an e-reader, so it is said, is that nobody can tell what you're reading.
Not true, says Ben Macintyre. Sure, your neighbours on the train won't know you're engrossed in a "mummy porn" novel, but your Kindle or Kobo certainly will.
These devices record not only what you read, but how fast you read and where in a book you get bogged down - and they pass that information back to publishers. This has provided the book trade with a vast new source of data. Until recently, the only way to gauge a book's success was through sales, reviews or letters. Now publishers can measure readers' responses to every part of a book and see which plotlines and characters work best. Some are already using this digital feedback to "road test" new works on the public through newspaper serialisations. Discovering that "most readers fall asleep in chapter three might be a new and painful experience for an author", but it might also help them write better books.