Thursday, January 08, 2015
Jellybooks Introduce ePub Reader Analytics
The buzz is currently is about big data, or collecting very granular consumer and transactional information and then being able to analyse it. The results may help spot trends, aid development, identify detail which was impossible to compute, or even recognise using traditional methods. As we gather more and more data, the trick is to exploit it in a ways that improve the product, enhance the consumer experience and increases revenues or profitability.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t.
The first challenge is to collect the data, the second is to be able to analyse what you probably don’t know, but assume you do, the third is to develop the results such that they make a return. Many companies have laboured over toolkits such as Google Analytics. Many have seen the money going out the door but not necessarily seen the return coming back in. Today it often seems that everyone and anyone who can spell IT and marketing are offering ways to analyse this, raise that and increase everything.
Now Jellybooks claim to have cracked the analytics for ebooks on 3rd party apps with their new Reader Analytics, which allows book publishers to analyse how their customers read books across third party reading apps and devices. Jellybooks will be giving a sneak preview at Digital Book World next week, aimed at the publisher and utilises either their own invited focus groups and or Jellybooks’ own subscribers to analyse know users’ reading habits.
Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks describes the Reader Analytics as, ‘An ePub analytics tool for the smartphone, tablet, eReader generation that works offline and with 3rd party apps and aims to understand how consumers interact with ebooks that they buy through Kindle, iBooks, Kobo and the like.’ It effectively records the reader’s progress against a title, identifying when each new chapter is opened, the reader’s reading speed, the length of the reading sessions, the time of day when the title was read and when the book was abandoned or finished.
However, this sort of analysis and level of information has long been available to some publishers. Whilst services providing online digital libraries, inspection copies attached to ecatalogues or synchronised walled garden environments have tracked every click. With the inspection copy they know not only what was inspected and shared with others, but importantly whether the copy was even opened.
So what is different with the Jellybook offer?
In accepting a free book and enrolling in a focus group, participating readers agree for their personal reading data to be analysed. There is both a potential strength and also a potential weakness. Firstly, like the consumers that agree to be on TV monitoring panels, it captures real users but in doing so we analyse the known, not the unknown. People who read books today are likely to read the book and will continue to read other books tomorrow. Those who are part time, or no time readers, will remain unhooked. Maybe the offer of a free ebook could entice new readers but will their habits be the same when they have to pay for the book?
Rhomberg also notes that, ‘A truly unbiased tool is only possible with an approach that forces cookies and tracking software on users without their consent. That is neither legal, not morally justifiable in our view.’
Some Marketeers will claim that focus groups often exist to reaffirm their presumptions and often don’t serve an independent perspective. Others believe that they are vital market testers. The problem is that it’s all too often, six of one and half a dozen of the other.
The Jellybook book community which claims some 60,000 avid and passionate readers clearly offers more scope and can generate its own reading groups.
But again does it pass the ‘is it wise dotcom test’?
Trade books, which are going to be the majority of those within the scheme, tend to be one off works so offer marginal editorial improvement unless they are pre-press galley copies. However, simply adding more ‘editors’ to the mix surely could potentially dilute not enhance the work. On the other hand, the potential marketing input on the positioning the work could be of benefit, but only if there is suitable elasticity in the marketing budget to respond.
There is the question of the exposure of the pool of pre-press books available and whether there is risk associated with opening this up to the Jellybook community to potentially see all new books on offer and how this would be policed such that these are all genuine independent readers and not potential competitors? It may matter little today but tomorrow will they potential have input to affect the final cut and if not why are they there?
After publication the benefits in fictional work start to diminish as sales and money will speak louder and further titles within a series will be either contracted or down to performance to date.
So forgetting the technology and functionality, is the Reader Analytics to become a pre-press testing market tool, or a post publication one? Is it technology looking for a home or a business need applying technology to resolve it? Rhomberg says, ‘We put so much emphasis on it being a pre-publication tool, precisely, because we think it has the most value and can lead to actionable results at this stage. In today’s industry the demand after publication is much, much more limited.’
We remember when we provided a major academic publisher with a potentially huge data bank on every click made by every student and academic. This was across a significant digital library at both work and chapter level, as well as the same information against digital inspection copies. Needless to say they were interested in who didn’t open an inspection copy, but where less interested in discovering the digital needle in the haystack. Perhaps times have changed and one would expect and hope so within that market and some others too, but we feel trade fiction is different.
We wish Jellybooks well with their new service and it will be interesting to see how it develops and is adopted.