- i want to know if people actually finish this book
- on what page/chapter does the average reader generally abandon (segmented by sex, edu. etc) ?
- are there sections that people read faster/slower?
- how quickly do they finish the book (pages/min)? (is it a 'page turner')
- what time of the day do most people read this book?
- how many days does it take the average person to finish this book?
- did my roommate actually read the book he keeps quoting?
the kindle has all of this data - and it is the only platform that has this data - amazon is clearly collecting it centrally (whisper sync to my iphone proves they have it). so, while all i want for christmas is access to a amazon kindle api, i suspect that amazon recognizes how priceless the data is (value of data is based on scarcity and they are the only ones who can capture this stuff) and will not be giving it away any time soon.
that said, if i had access to a kindle api (which is really just one huge but simple reading dataset -- user, book, page -- with time stamps on every action, page flip, open/close, etc.) here is what i would do:
1. make the purchase page/rankings/information about books data driven:
this is the most benign and probably the first thing that will happen. instead of having a four star rating on a book, when i am purchasing i want to know the rate at which a book has actually been finished and the speed at which people tend to read it segmented by age, gender, and probably some education and social stats that would require a mashup to facebook connect. i don't want to read a book that everyone clearly gets bored with and abandons on chapter 3.
while we are at it, it is worth customizing the stats to my own personal book reading history to pull out how likely i am to finish the book, my expected pace ppm (pages per minute), where i will slow down, etc.
finally, i would love to be able to search amazon by saying, i have a four hour flight, can you give me something that i can read in four hours and will likely finish and enjoy?
2. give authors tools for understanding & revising their work:
further out, but not necessarily requiring any more data than the kindle api would easily have, why not give the data back to the authors and help them refine their works. if a book is looking people on chapter 7 as noted by a high abandon rate and slowing pages per minute of the average reader (or the target of 28 year old females who like ponies and tattoos), why not go back and revise?
just like google analytics, the kindle api could give authors powerful tools to analyze how people are reading their books based on some easy segmentation. since we are talking about digital ink and not physical releases, why not let the authors edit the section and push up a new edition.... let's move away from book releases to baas (books as a service)
3. give teachers/educators a dashboard to watch their student progress:
this one the kids will hate... again, just use the kindle api and a few basic stats and teacher can track the progress of students through a book. are there sections where the kids are getting hung up as their ppm drops significantly (either because it is too boring or too difficult).
is timmy clearly not doing his homework (either the books are going unfinished, or is there a pattern of very low ppm followed by bursts of very high ppm -- while he is just hitting 'page next' while watching tv)?
how is timmy progressing, is his speed measured by kindle and comprehension (probably requires tests) increasing throughout the year?
how is the class performing against averages of students their age? are they reading more quickly or less quickly.
4. not to mention the pure research of it all:
how do people really read, when, and how. how does reading evolve with age and along other segmentations. how is reading changing over time. what percentage of books purchased actually get read. what percentage of books that are started are finished, and where are the common abandon points. these are all fascinating research projects, all they need is the dataset that amazon has.
ultimately, this is not new thinking - but newly possible
as a highly dyslexic person who didn't learn to really read until about 6th grade (and faked it before that) i find this new transparency a very complex concept socially. as someone who loves books and believes lines about the sanctity of literature, i am not sure that living wikiesque books is a good idea...
but, 1. this is all going to happen whether we like it or not, of this i am relatively sure. 2. the 'data nerd' in me loves every second of it.
so, amazon, do what is right and make a whole new industry and set of problems for us - release a kindle api and let me mash it up with facebook, build interfaces for teachers and authors, and generally completely overhaul the concept of what a book is and what reading one means.