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New companies track E-book consumers' choices by first reading your habits

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Companies such as Oyster and Scribd are the new 'Netflix' for E-book readers. These types of startup companies in the technology arena are interested in using high tech methods to find out what and how you read. Their technology also can help writers find out what and how readers read their E-books on mobile devices (or computers).

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The goal of these relatively new data-tracking companies is to give readers what they want. Researchers are interested in how you read books such as quickly or slowly or whether you skip pages or skim the book, says a December 25, 2013,NY Times article "As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You," by David Streitfeld. In fact, researchers from the technology industry want to know whether you linger over certain scenes in a book and perhaps read them repeatedly.

Scribd's conversion technology allows anyone to convert any book or document from virtually any format into a beautiful webpage or mobile reading experience. Writers can increase their readership by reaching Scribd's 80 million monthly readers. Scribd will maximize distribution of publisher's content through search engines and the social web.

Authors and publishers can make their content free on Scribd, or generate a new source of revenue through Scribd's new subscription service, says the Scribed website, so self-published writers and those published by the brick-and-mortar publishing houses both can have a more equalized chance at reaching readers and selling books.

Presently, a lot of publishing houses will promote the books of a celebrity in different ways from the books of a relatively unknown writer. You also may wish, for example, to check out the slideshow on Examiner.com of 50 of Hart's 91 paperback book covers.

Equalization of book promotion efforts, distribution, and creativity enhancement

There has to be more of an equalization of creativity, of authors between the self-published author and the books of those brick-and-mortar publishing houses that edit the books of their own selected writers. Self-published writers want more equalization of the writing market so their books will have a better chance of being promoted and selling. Many self-published writers can't invest money in promoting their book, so the books don't get read by anyone other than the author.

You have a lot of older authors whose family members don't read great grandma' books because their self-published and unknown, even rejected by many libraries. Sometimes the books come out, are listed on online publishing sites, but never sell more than a few copies. The used copies get recycled into toilet paper in some cases.

And the print-on-demand books may print one or two copies a decade for some books, especially the novels and plays of unknown authors that few people buy. Additionally, one bad review due to a mismatch of goals between writer and reader can keep a self-published or print-on-demand book from anyone else ever buying it, destroying the career of an unknown writer for a lifetime, even when the writer has spent a lifetime of savings to publish the book.

The scenario is repeated at senior centers as to what happens to the novels published by aging, unknown novelists who have published their books print-on-demand. On the other hand, you have print-on-demand writers who invest thousands of dollars in promoting their own book and/or do public speaking about it. This shuts out the hard-of-hearing and speech impaired writer who can't speak publicly about a self-published book. It's another damper on creativity and someone's life work.

So when high technology comes along and shows a writer what readers want, it can same a lot of time and labor choosing the topic and setting of a new book or whether readers prefer fiction or nonfiction of a certain type, locale, or genre

Scribd is a digital documents library that allows users to publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents in various languages. Their website announces you can read unlimited books for a small monthly fee. National Public Radio (NPR)'s blurb is on Scribd's website, that is a saying that, "Movie lovers have Netflix, music lovers have Spotify — and book lovers (whether they read literary fiction or best-selling potboilers) now have Scribd."– NPR

Scribd is the world's largest digital library, where readers can discover books and written works of all kinds on the Web or any mobile device and publishers and authors can find a voracious audience for their work. Launched in March of 2007 and based in San Francisco California, more than 40 million books and documents have been contributed to Scribd by the community. Scribd content reaches an audience of 80 million people around the world every month.

If you read lots of books, you can find everything from up-and-coming books by new authors, to court filings that have been making the news, to academic papers from scholars around the world. With a Scribd subscription, readers can have unlimited access to best-selling books and premium documents, and read them on any iOS and Android smart phone, tablet or desktop, says Scribd's website.

How would the data collected on readers help writers enhance their creativity and at the same time provide books that readers want as compared to writing books of interest to the writer that only the writer will read? For the self-published writer, it depends upon the writer's goal, whether it's to sell the book or mainly for the therapeutic value of the writing process, for example, as in an autobiography or life story highlight meant only for family members.

For the writer who wants to write books that sell to more readers, more data is valuable

The question is how does the data control the writer's creativity, the focus of the nonfiction topic, or in a novel, the setting of the story and whether the characters are ordinary people, superhero types, or a mix? Is the story believable or unbelievable but creative? And will readers buy unbelievable works of fiction or only believable novels, no matter where the time and place are set?

Data collected via technology may be the key for writers. For example, readers prefer short chapters when reading novels and thrillers. The action needs to move quickly. That's why some books become page-turners. These guidelines gleaned from the data about readers' habits help writers focus on what readers will buy. Writers want as a goal to still have control over what they write. At the same time, they want to make sure that after all their labor and research is done that someone besides the writer actually reads the book.

You have social media sites dedicated to discussing books on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Flickr, and on personal blog sites

What these researchers haven't provided yet are books of interest to the very elderly and to those with disabilities, for the very poor, and for anyone else outside the margins of average book readers, if book readers cold be called average.

The startup businesses use technology to obtain reading data from subscribers who, for a flat monthly fee, buy access to an array of titles, which they can read on a variety of devices. Is the goal to do for books what Netflix did for movies and Spotify did for music? Check out the NY Times article for some of the answers in interviews in that article.

For self-published writers, it's helping to target the intended audiences for certain books, for example, in niche markets or on special topics or genres that self-published authors may emphasize. For example, 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. Many of Smashwords’ books are already on Oyster, a New York-based subscription start-up that also began in the fall, notes the NY Times article.

Consumer analytics is one field that has a branch that reads data to find out what shoppers are consuming

Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it proprietary. The start-ups — which also include Entitle, a North Carolina-based company — are hoping to profit by telling all, according to the NY Times article. The goal is to look into the reader's mind. It's great for self-published writers who would enjoy peering into the reader's mind before writing another self-published book. After all, a lot of writers are trying to sell what they've written, and they want to know whether anyone out there is interested in the subject of their books or the experiences of their characters in a work of fiction.

The company called Scribd is starting to analyze the data from its subscribers

The NY Times article listed some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.

Why do people even buy erotica? Obviously, it's for satisfaction or self-pleasuring while reading for many readers, especially if the erotic is detailed and graphic in technique rather than hardcore decency-oriented.

The startup companies are trying to get inside the minds of readers so they can provide books that give the reading what they expect from a book. Self-published authors are tired of reviews of their books on Amazon and other online destinations that call their book garbage, trash, worthlessly poetic, or any other negative review followed by a statement such as, "And I tossed the book in the trash can." At least if writers knew beforehand what a reader expects from a story, the writer has some guidelines to follow.

On the other hand, if the reader is a grown male and trashes a book in a review meant for a 9-12 year old female reader interested in adventure and travel with a family, the review is out of place, since the grown male shouldn't have bought a self-published book with a female teenage main character on an adventure in a past century with family members

There's another firm called Oyster, backed by some of the best in technology today, and based in New York that's, mentioned in the NY Times article where Oyster data reveals that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone, explains the NY Times article. See, "Read Unlimited Books - Oysterbooks.com‎."

Oyster's site notes that you can read unlimited books for a small monthly fee by subscribing. The site says, "Oyster offers unlimited access to over 100,000 books." For example, the site says that you can read all these books on your mobile device from any location where your mobile device can go.

Various publishers of the brick-and-mortar kind would provide data to an author on what the various high tech methods are showing. On the other hand, writers still want to keep their creative processes working. The goal is not to tamper with creativity.

In some cases a writer won't sacrifice creativity regardless whether anyone actually reads their self-published book. It's a work in progress or it's a product of creative work that's meant to be passed on to the next generation, even if the children and grandchildren don't read what they've written or are shocked by a tell-all book.

Will the data be anonymous so readers will not be identified?

The privacy policies however are broad. On the other hand, you, as the writer (if your a new customer) will be consenting to the collection, transfer, manipulation, storage, disclosure and other uses of your information,” says Oyster in the NY Times article.

There are numerous steps that have to be taken and hoops to jump through before writers can get any data. Publishers will have to supply the books. Some publishers signed with Oyster and Scribd, but others didn't. And some agents are not ready yet. Agents and publishers are looking over the business model.

The readers are paying, for now. For example, at Scribd and Oyster, readers pay about $10 a month for a library of about 100,000 books from traditional presses. They can read as many books as they want. But not everybody reads lots of books or has time or wants to read rather than watch videos or listen to podcasts. Writers, agents, and publishers are concerned about the future and about quality in the future as companies grow larger.

On the other hand, writers would like data about what readers want to see in their books

For more information, check out the NY Times article, "As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You." Or see the websites of companies such as Scribd and Oyster. If you're a writer, would you enjoy learning about the habits of readers and what type of books, plots, characters, or stories they prefer? Or if you write nonfiction, what subjects need covering, or what topics are so new the media has not yet covered the field that readers would like to see put into an E-book perhaps to read on a mobile device?

You may be interested in the article, "Met thumbed through Oyster card data up to 22,000 times in 4 years." In the UK, for example, the Metropolitan police has requested Oyster card data relating to citizens and other personal information from Transport for London (TfL) more than 22,000 times since 2008, according to figures published by the capital's transport authority. But that article pertains to the UK.

Also please check out and/or subscribe (free) to all my nutrition, health, or cultural media columns such as my Sacramento Nutrition Examiner column, Sacramento Healthy Trends Examiner column, Sacramento Holistic Family Health Examiner column, Sacramento Media & Culture Examiner column, and my national columns: National Senior Health Examiner column, National Children's Nutrition Examiner column, National Writing Examiner column, and the National Healthy Trends Examiner column.

Follow Anne Hart's various Examiner articles on nutrition, health, and culture on this Facebook site and/or this Twitter site. Also see some of Anne Hart's 91 paperback books at: iUniverse, and Career Press. Or see the author's website. Please follow my columns on Pinterest or Pinterest Sacramento Nutrition Examiner.

For more info: browse some my books, How Nutrigenomics Fights Childhood Type 2 Diabetes & Weight Issues (2009). Or see my books, How to Safely Tailor Your Foods, Medicines, & Cosmetics to Your Genes (2003) or How to Open DNA-driven Genealogy Reporting & Interpreting Businesses. (2007). You also may wish, for example, to check out the slideshow on Examiner.com of 50 of Hart's 91 paperback book covers.

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