Tweet activity analytics. Facebook insights. Google analytics. YouTube analytics.
I've been trained to expect detailed data for everything I do online, anything digital, and it has always seemed ridiculous that I can't get e-book data.
My publisher gives me quarterly paper reports that are hard to read and seem to contain less information over time as the reports are "streamlined" (and they somehow make me feel grateful that I even get that), thus driving me into the arms of Amazon for information because at least Amazon gives authors access to weekly BookScan data through AuthorCentral.
I remember a very awkward discussion with an independent bookstore owner when I was out on my first book tour: I was thrilled that my book was ranking so well at Amazon (~50 overall), and so I was excitedly sharing the news, until it became clear that independent bookstore owners don't like to hear about Amazon--but how else am I supposed to see how my book is doing? Nobody else gives authors that kind of hour-by-hour data that we're used to getting in every other realm.
E-books should give us even more data. I should be able to see how often people open my books, how long they read, where they stop for the day, what parts they reread, what parts they share, what parts they seem to skim, and (horrors!) where they abandon the book.
You know data monster Amazon must have this information, and I thought they would have given authors access to it years ago. But alas, they have not.
Instead, I've been seeing startups, such as Tablo, entering the market offering authors access to e-book data--sweet, sweet e-book data.
The downside is that you have to publish your book on their platform to get the data, and if you want people to actually read your book, it's a risk to go with a new platform. Perhaps independent authors can publish on Tablo and elsewhere to reach the most readers and get analytics on at least a segment of their readers.
I've always wondered whether it would be possible to embed tags or snippets of code in e-books so you could track reading patterns on any platform. (Anyone? Anyone?) That would be a better solution for authors, although perhaps not a better business for startups. It could work though; selling data is a legitimate business model. Give me limited free stats and charge me for professional-level analytics. More than one million books are now published every year. It's not a small market.
It would not surprise me if access to e-book data soon becomes a deciding factor for emerging authors deciding where to publish. Weekly BookScan data is better than quarterly paper reports, but authors who know they can get 10 different data points on every Facebook post would jump at the chance to see more information about how readers engage with books.