“You Really Gonna Read That?”

Last year I wrote about digital content in the classroom and software that makes it possible for college professors to track students’ reading habits. And of course, it’s a short hop from academics to writers in the wider publishing industry. Who doesn’t want to know what makes a reader keep turning the page all the way to the end of the book? And there are some “general insights” which will surprise nobody:

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.

I can see this being hugely useful for writers. But you know I’m going to point out the flip side, right? [Read more…]