Zach Beauvais

ebook data?

Written by Zach Beauvais

Aug 21, 2010

Wooden KindleEbooks are doing rather well, with Amazon announcing them outselling their print counterparts in bestsellers lists. I’ve enjoyed using the Kindle app for various reasons including:

  • Instant purchase/download (even Amazon Prime can take too long!)
  • One device, not many books
  • Reading in the dark (on the iPad, any way)
  • Searching and smart(ish) bookmarking

Now I’d love to see various improvements, and a novel things I’m not sure I have a fully-formed idea around yet (I’d like new things with the power of computing devices, but I’m not sure yet what they might be.)

But something has interested me a lot with a piece I read in ReadWriteWeb. The piece talks about various ways in which ebooks are better than paper ones, and it mentions “social highlighting”, that is: the ability to share electronically highlighted text and notes. Richard MacManus goes on to suggest better features and improvements, and I’m fully in agreement here: the social aspect of ebooks has yet to be developed much at all, it seems.

Now, these social tools could follow a very predictable path, taking in the evolution of social tools elsewhere: multi-site sharing options, tweets, facebook connecting (I “like” the Kite Runner) etc. No doubt they will. But the thing that really grabbed me was the little gem of a site showing the most highlighted passages in the Kindle bookstore. This means that Amazon knows what’s being highlighted. It means—I’m just guessing here—that publishers could begin to know how much books are actually read. You know that copy of A Brief History of Time you bought?

That’s a very straightforward metric, but one that’s immediately useful to amazon, publishers, and authors. What else could be gleaned from vey simple and anonymous data like these?

What other data are Amazon using, and what else could be done with finer-grained data from users? Imagine language studies over tricky phrases in intralingual dictionaries! Finally, how can this be turned directly over to consumers?

I’d love to know my own reading patterns, which words and phrases I highlight.

photo: “kindling” by oskay via flickr. CC by

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