nation -- January 16, 2014 at 2:45 PM ET
Americans prefer print books over e-books
Although more Americans own electronic readers, most prefer reading print books. Photo by Flickr user srharris
Despite an increase in electronic readers and tablets, most Americans still prefer flipping through the pages of a book.
A report released Thursday found that 70 percent of Americans read print books last year, but only four percent read exclusively e-books. According to the survey, conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the average adult read five books in 2013.
While Americans read both print and e-books, the survey also found that half of American adults now own an e-reader or tablet, which is a seven percent increase from 2012.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
這種挖掘閱讀數據的舉措，從一個側面展示了消費者分析如何滲透到了我們文化中的每一個角落。亞馬遜(Amazon)和巴諾書店(Barnes & Noble)已經通過其電子閱讀器收集了大量信息，但它們將這些數據當作專有信息。如今，包括總部位於北卡羅來納州的Entitle在內的一些初創企業，希望通過公開這些數據來獲利。
Justin Bolle for The New York Times
住在阿肯色州西部的年輕作者奎因·洛夫蒂斯(Quinn Loftis)撰寫靈異成人浪漫小說。她會在Facebook、Pinterest、Twitter、Goodreads、YouTube、 Flickr，以及她自己的個人網站上與粉絲們進行廣泛交流。這樣的網絡社區活動，已經為這名33歲的作者帶來了六位數的年收入，而10年前，其中大部分 網絡社區都還沒有出現。但如果能獲得讀者如何閱讀其書籍的實際數據，她的市場調研就能達到最高水平。
Scribd剛剛開始分析註冊用戶數據。以下是一些籠統的發現：懸 疑小說篇幅越長，讀者就越可能跳到結尾查看兇手是誰；與商業書目相比，讀者讀完傳記類書籍的可能性更大；但對於瑜伽書籍，讀完一個章節就足夠了；讀者瀏覽 浪漫小說的速度比宗教書籍快，而瀏覽速度最快的是情色文學。
在Oyster的書庫里，有一本名為《女人想要什麼》(What Women Want)的暢銷書，該書的推廣詞為「帶你了解女人所思所想，這樣你才能給她驚喜」。每一個點開該書的讀者都讀完了整本書。另一方面，小阿瑟·M·施萊辛 格(Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.)的《美國歷史的循環》(The Cycles of American History)卻沒能給任何人帶來驚喜：點開該書的讀者只有1%讀完了全書。
「我們會將這些數據提供給作者嗎？當然，」哈珀柯林斯出版集團 (HarperCollins Publishers)首席數字官尚塔爾·雷斯蒂沃-阿萊西(Chantal Restivo-Alessi)說。「但書要怎麼寫，是要由作者決定的。創作過程是一個神秘的過程。」
這些公司拒絕介紹它們的商業模式，但出版商表示Scribd和 Oyster的協議條款稍有不同。Oyster規定，讀者讀了一本書10%的內容，就會被正式歸類為「已讀」，此時Oyster就需要向出版商支付標準的 批發價。Scribd的條款比較複雜。如果讀者的閱讀比例超過10%，但低於50%，就支付10%的銷售額，閱讀比例超過50%就相當於全額銷售。
As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You
December 28, 2013
Scribd engineers, above, at work in San Francisco.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
SAN FRANCISCO — Before the Internet, books were written — and published — blindly, hopefully. Sometimes they sold, usually they did not, but no one had a clue what readers did when they opened them up. Did they skip or skim? Slow down or speed up when the end was in sight? Linger over the sex scenes?
A wave of start-ups is using technology to answer these questions — and help writers give readers more of what they want. The companies get 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. The idea is to do for books what Netflix did for movies and Spotify for music.
“Self-published writers are going to eat this up,” said Mark Coker, the chief executive of Smashwords, a large independent publisher. “Many seem to value their books more than their kids. They want anything that might help them reach more readers.”
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.
The move to exploit reading data is one aspect of how consumer analytics is making its way into every corner of the culture. Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it proprietary. Now the start-ups — which also include Entitle, a North Carolina-based company — are hoping to profit by telling all.
Quinn Loftis, a writer of romances, interacts with readers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Flickr and her website.
Justin Bolle for The New York Times
“We’re going to be pretty open about sharing this data so people can use it to publish better books,” said Trip Adler, Scribd’s chief executive.
Quinn Loftis, a writer of young adult paranormal romances who lives in western Arkansas, interacts extensively with her fans on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Flickr and her own website. These efforts at community, most of which did not exist a decade ago, have already given the 33-year-old a six-figure annual income. But having actual data about how her books are being read would take her market research to the ultimate level.
“What writer would pass up the opportunity to peer into the reader’s mind?” she asked.
Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. 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.
At Oyster, a top book is “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind.” Everyone who starts it finishes it. On the other hand, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Cycles of American History” blows no minds: fewer than 1 percent of the readers who start it get to the end.
Oyster data shows 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.
A few writers might be repelled by too much knowledge. But others would be fascinated, as long as they retained control.
“Would we provide this data to an author? Absolutely,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer for HarperCollins Publishers. “But it is up to him how to write the book. The creative process is a mysterious process.”
Here is how Scribd and Oyster work: 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.
“We love big readers,” said Eric Stromberg, Oyster’s chief executive. But Oyster, whose management includes two ex-Google engineers, cannot afford too many of them.
This could be called the Sizzler problem. In the 1990s, the steak restaurant chain tried to beef up sales with an all-you-can-eat salad bar, which got bigger as it got more popular. But as more hungry customers came, the chain was forced to lower quality, which caused customers to flee, which resulted in bankruptcy.
“Sure, if you had a buffet and everyone ate everything, it wouldn’t be a profitable business,” said Mr. Adler of Scribd. “But generally people only eat so much.” Only 2 percent of Scribd’s subscribers read more than 10 books a month, he said.
These start-ups are being forced to define something that only academic theoreticians and high school English teachers used to wonder about: How much reading does it take to read a book? Because that is when the publisher, and the writer, get paid.
The companies declined to outline their business model, but publishers said Scribd and Oyster offered slightly different deals. On Oyster, once a person reads more than 10 percent of the book, it is officially considered “read.” Oyster then has to pay the publisher a standard wholesale fee. With Scribd, it is more complicated. If the reader reads more than 10 percent but less than 50 percent, it counts for a tenth of a sale. Above 50 percent, it is a full sale.
Both services say the response has been enthusiastic, but neither provided precise numbers.