I am a big fan of e-books and now I rarely read a book printed on paper. The past ten or fifteen books I have purchased were all published as e-books. However, a recent article by Alexandra Alter in the Wall Street Journal was a bit of a "wake up call." Alter says an estimated 40 million e-readers and 65 million tablets in use in the U.S. Alter then claims that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Barnes & Noble all can easily monitor your reading habits.
For instance, with Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, nearly 18,000 Kobo e-book readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: "Because sometimes things happen to people and they're not equipped to deal with them." How does KoboBooks know that? If you use a Kobo e-book reader, the location of your highlights are stored on the KoboBooks servers. Other products from other producers work in more-or-less the same manner.
Reading has always been a solitary and private act, but the rise of digital books has transformed the activity into something measurable and quasi-public. The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books. Can government monitoring be far behind?
Some privacy watchdogs argue that e-book users should be protected from having their digital reading habits recorded. "There's a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else's business," says the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn.
Fascinating story. You can read Alexandra Alter's article, Your E-Book Is Reading You, at http://goo.gl/p7KVM.
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