Friday, December 27, 2013

A Brave New World

Data mining can be a little scary.  Witness the brouhaha over NSA spying.  But it can also be useful, as can be seen in these new e-reading services that track reading habits.

Check this out:
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.
 The whole point, of course, is to help publishers give people what they want, which --and this is only my opinion-- they kind of suck at now.   Publishers seems content trying to squeeze more and more money out of fewer and fewer readers, not even trying to make some kind of sustainable reading culture that cuts a wide swath.  Publishers are slaves to trends, never leading, always following.   They operate as if the whole point of their enterprise is to make books look impressive on store shelves.  The reading part....ah, who cares as long as book sells?

"Paranormal romance" may just be a buzz word for a horror novel that is not scary, but it now has it's own section at Barnes and Noble.  The old horror section, on the other hand, no longer exists. 

And "young adult novels?"  What a joke.  Absent the the bogus marketing distinction, most "young adult novels" would just be considered genre novels with broad all-ages appeal.  These books are just shorter, more tightly written versions of the "adult-adult" crap almost no one reads.

Where does a guy go if he wants to read an adventure story that's around 200 pages?  You go to the "young adult" section and hope you find one that's not too dumbed down or you troll thrift stores and used bookshops looking for old paperbacks from the 50s and 60s.  You go looking for Louis L'Amour, John D. Macdonald, Alister Maclean. 

Or you can read the poorly written 400 page monstrosities puked up by a guy with two more books left on his contract.  John D. Macdonald wrote two books a year.  He didn't take two months off to fly to Hong Kong for "research" and he didn't fluff up his word count rehashing that "research."  He wrote books that were meant to be read.

I can think of no better improvement to the book biz than if they spent more energy publishing books that are meant to be read.  This Scribd service may help them do that.

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