Tracking Reader Data

One of the major advantages to ebooks is the ability to track reading habits of your books. You can see how long it took a reader to finish your book or at what point they stopped reading it altogether, and a variety of other data as well.

During the Emerging Leaders Conference, I talked to Dave Andersen from Kobo about tracking reading habits. They have plenty of data on general reading habits, but when I asked him about anthology specific data he said they weren’t tracking that (neither is BookNet, by the way). If you know a specific book is an anthology, you can look at the data in general, but it’s no different than the data you would get for a novel or nonfiction book.

But I have specific questions when it comes to short fiction reading habits.

When I’m selling books, I often am able to sell anthologies to people who don’t read a lot because they can finish an entire story start to finish in one sitting, then come back to the book months later and start an entirely new story without having to remember what they read last time. Now, these people likely aren’t the people who own eReaders, but the concept can still apply. Someone might read one short story in between novels, or on their commute because they have just enough time.

Given the stop and start features of an anthology, I have a few specific questions I’d like answered:

  1. Do people read one story at a time, or a few stories at a time?
  2. How often will someone read an anthology start to finish without reading anything else in between?
  3. Do people always read the first story first, second story second, and so on? Or do people prefer to jump around?
  4. And how does genre or type of story factor into the answers of the above three questions?

The answers to these questions can affect production of anthologies. It can take a lot of time and deliberation to determine the order in which the stories will appear in the anthology (choosing which stories to accept can be the easy part, ordering them is a whole different story). I spend a lot of time focusing on this because I assume that most people will read the stories in the order they appear in the book, but this assumption could be completely off base.

From what I’ve gathered talking to many industry people, anthologies aren’t a major focus of data collection, so I doubt I’ll be getting these answers any time soon. I’ll just have to find another way to figure it out.

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