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Industry news: e-Readers track activity, S&S adds box-like code to books, HarperCollins closes deal to buy Thomas Nelson

July 14, 2012

e-Readers Track Your Actions

At my Catholic high school, we had a librarian who carefully tracked what we did in the library (for instance, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition was not allowed.) Now companies can track your activities using your e-reader. For instance, the most common action for Nook users after finishing the first book in the Hunger Games series is buying the second book. The speed at which you read can also be tracked, along with what you highlight. The reader apps, both on the readers and downloaded to laptops and tablets, provide a plethora of information about how you read and use any interactive functions in the book, such as the search option. Nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels tend to be read straight through. Amazon could have a large advantage in this area, as it can be both the publisher and the e-reader manufacturer, meaning it can simply provide the information collected on its e-books to it publishing arm.

What this means to you: Aside from the creepy big brother aspects, the ramifications of this story may take a while to play out. Once the companies collecting the data get good at analyzing and packaging it, they would have a salable product to publishers, who have no real method for gauging customer behavior, beyond sales numbers. While Amazon’s data would simply be a case of the rich getting richer, the added revenue could be useful for Barnes and Noble, and may even cause it to be a more attractive acquisition candidate. The article hypothesizes that the publishers may target places where people stop reading as a place for multimedia content to keep the reader engaged.

Simon & Schuster to Add QR Codes to Book Covers

QR (quick response) codes, those boxy things that look vaguely like UPC codes, will start popping up on Simon & Schuster hardcovers and trade paperbacks. When users use a smart phone to scan the code, they’ll be directed to the author’s website for more information about the author and his or her books, as well potentially registering for a newsletter. The move is an effort to build the publisher’s base of mailing lists for marketing its products. Mailing lists allow an effective and low-cost way for the publisher to market future books.

What this means to you: You’ve got to assume that the other publishers will follow suit on this move. As a reader, it means that you can sign up for news and other information about your favorite authors by using a code reader on your smart phone. (If you don’t have a smart phone, the book will also include a URL for the author’s webpage.) If you already subscribe to a lot of e-mail publications, it may mean one more thing that goes into your trash folder without being read. As a writer, it will eventually mean you’ll have the ability to use this technology to market your work to readers who have already purchased your books. If you self-publish, this is a service that will eventually find its way to many self-publishing companies, for a price (of course).

HarperCollins Purchases Thomas Nelson

HarperCollins has completed the purchase of Thomas Nelson. The purchase, which passed Department of Justice review, unites the top two Christian publishers. HarperCollins already controls Zondervan, the largest Christian publisher. The purchase may give HarperCollins as much as 50% of the Christian market. The announcement of the closing includes a statement that Nelson, in business since 1798, will continue to operate as a separate business unit. HarperCollins is currently owned by NewsCorp, which has split its entertainment and news divisions.

How this affects you: Nelson will operate as a separate business unit. None of the articles about the purchase indicated that separation was required to pass anti-trust muster. If the terms of the purchase included a requirement to operate separately, it may follow that Zondervan and Nelson cannot collude in doing business. Those are two enormous ifs. It probably means that if you’re a Christian writer, you should check with your agent (if you have one) when it comes time to shop your next book.

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