How can — or should — we use E-reader data as writers?

imgresNPR had an interesting piece the other day about technology in e-readers which enables us to track how readers are buying and responding to books. Excerpt below:

Data is being collected about your reading habits. That information belongs to the companies that sell e-readers, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And they can share — or sell — that information if they like. One official at Barnes & Noble has said sharing that data with publishers might “help authors create even better books.”

The data is also, of course, a brilliant marketing tool. Best-selling author Scott Turow says e-readers can collect a lot of information about their owners.

“You can tell everything about how somebody reads a book,” says Turow, “whether they are the kind that skips to the end, how fast they read, what they skip … So [data from e-readers] can give the author specific feedback. You know, ’35 percent of the people who bought this book quit after the first two chapters.’ “

So how can this technology be utilized to the self-publisher’s advantage?

The truth is, many authors that NPR interviewed were incredibly interested in seeing how readers react to every word of their text. Face it, if we weren’t curious as to how people responded to what we write, then most of us probably wouldn’t publish anything at all, would we? Being able to see what parts of the book people skip and which they pour over could help a writer identify stronger aspects of their own writing and which could use improvement — to say nothing of the possibility of tailoring your book to your audience and what that could do for your sales!

At the same time, should market research be that instrumental to the creative process? Part of the reason that publishing as an industry is in its current messy state is because most houses tend to only bet on books that they know will sell, and oftentimes we may miss out on brilliant works of art because they are difficult to read at first glance.

What do you think? Check out the rest of the story over at NPR and draw your own conclusions — or if you have a strong opinion, let us know right now in the comments below!